Two couples swap their houses for the summer. Once away from their familiar routines a succession of hopes, secrets, and dreams force new directions entirely and by the end of the year their respective trips are more about life swaps, than easy holiday solutions. Thanks to his colleague, Andrew and his wife, Sophie, jump at the chance to leave London for the summer and stay in Connecticut, while William and his American wife, Beth, take the opportunity to travel to the UK so that William can spend time with his sons from a previous marriage. Once in the States Andrew is obsessed with furthering his musical career and exploring various leads open to him and begins to move in circles alien to his wife. Anxious Sophie battles with her sense of direction in life, and wonders about the attentions of a neighbour. Meanwhile, Beth is struggling with a culture shock in London and feeling out of the loop while William is drawn into the problems of his ex-family.
I enjoyed this family drama which, although may be classed as light fiction, explores an interesting set of circumstances in order to test just how solid a relationship might be and how far one might be able to strain it in order to further a personal goal or ambition. Add in the push and pull of family ties and this makes for a gently compelling read.
Janine and Dougie were married for fifteen years until Janine decided she could no longer live with his addictions and his infidelity. Although she is now in a relationship with Dependable Mike, the depth of Janine and Dougie’s history together still lies like an unbreakable, invisible bond through Janine’s teenage daughter, Stevie. Their friends are something of a mixed bag including Dougie’s best friend Simon, and his wife, Victoria – who is so desperate for her own child she is often blind to Simon’s slippery ways. But when it comes to Stevie, Simon bites off more than he can chew and eventually, the dynamic of all their relationships implode.
This is a novel about relationships and how they connect: lovers, friends, husbands, wives, siblings, step-children, parents. It tackles some big issues alongside the domestic strata confirming that genuine, selfless love can overcome anything; and how something better can grow from the ashes of despair. Dougie enjoys the most development as a character, he’s so vibrant and colourful, almost larger than life! But for all his faults he’s big-hearted enough to still care for Janine’s daughter, and his personal struggle to once again build his life back from nothing is an enjoyable, remarkable journey and skilfully executed. The push and pull of emotional chess is rich and insightful, with just enough drama to keep the plot boiling without losing a grip on reality or resorting to sentiment. Deeply compelling, relatable, and hugely enjoyable.