The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton

39719145Musician Grace Atherton is conducting a long-term love affair with David – a married man intent on leaving his wife just as soon as the children are older. His wife turns a blind eye since they have an ‘arrangement.’ Grace has already endured much misery in her life – deceased parents who sacrificed their own happiness for hers, an abusive relationship with her tutor which added to her inhibitions and her ability to play in public; and another, more personal loss connected to David – but she seems determined to hang on to a man who can’t, or won’t fully commit. Of course, it happens, this is not an unusual situation. And the intense, obsessive character of Grace is perhaps the perfect foil for someone like David; a man who manages to spend days at a time in Grace’s company even though he lives in another country. On the face of it David seems almost gallant and heroic at times, especially so when he saves a woman from falling into the path of a tube train in Paris. But when all of this is captured by CCTV and the incident goes viral across social media, all of his relationships come under scrutiny and his clandestine love affair with Grace is blown apart.
This author writes about grief, disappointment, and depression exceptionally well, and the nuts and bolts of the writing flow like silk, making it a pleasure to read and I was drawn in immediately. The story of an affair with a slippery married man is a well-worn one and somewhat predictable, but of course the enjoyment of it lies in the telling; although I would have liked a little more story. And for me, too much description concerning the repair to musical instruments; the sounds they make, how they are made, and the playing of them. I found this slowed the action and these long passages felt a little too dense and detailed for the overall tone of the story. Classical music lovers will no doubt find more to endear them to this aspect of the novel than I did. However, the continental settings are vivid and beautifully described, the pacing is good, and the themes of friendship are honest and enduring, allowing Grace to finally discover a better, stronger version of herself.

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Things we Choose to Hide

50544743._SY475_On the rebound at the end of a long-term relationship, Rachel flees to friends in Florence – and falls in love with handsome, albeit secretive, Tommaso. They marry within weeks. It seems a rash decision for such an independent, intelligent woman with career prospects – plans she has no intention of giving up or changing for the preferences of a man bound by Italian convention. And this especially since she’s given up everything to stay in Italy with her new husband; to learn his first language, make new friends, and pursue her photography career in a foreign country rather than on home ground in Scotland.
Unease grows within the relationship when Rachel discovers her husband is keeping secrets. During a low time, Rachel travels to India to revisit the places she grew up as a child. The poverty and spirituality she experiences there and a sympathetic meeting-of-minds through the Catholic priest, Pasha, contrasts sharply with the rich scenery and her privileged, more formal way of life in Italy. As Tommaso’s complex secrets come to light and disaster strikes, Rachel must find great reserves of character to keep afloat, both emotionally and practically. Her reward – eventually – is to discover love in the most unexpected of places.
The great strength and appeal of this book lies in the rich descriptive knowledge the author brings to the locations: the food, the people, and the culture, without detracting from the story. I did sense some detachment from the main character from time to time, where a little more depth might have convinced me more assuredly of her emotions and motivations. Otherwise, a well written novel with ambitious scope. Great escapism.

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