I’ve always been a bit of a fan of Lucy Robinson. I’ve followed her on Twitter for ages, love her website, and think she’s really lovely – I admire her way with words, her ability to choose exactly the ones that capture what you’re thinking, with perfect humour, always just on the polite side of being ever so rude.
But it struck me this week – as I picked up The Day We Disappeared in advance of its release on 9th April – that I’ve shamefully neglected her books. I’ve only read one, A Passionate Love Affair With A Total Stranger, and that was back in February 2013, before I started the blog. Looking at my Goodreads review I still remember how much I enjoyed it – the sizzling on-line exchanges, a really original story very well told, and a wonderful cast of supporting characters from evil Margot to Malcolm the labrador. So I made a decision – over the Easter weekend I’d put things right, and read not just one but two of Lucy’s books, and tell you what I thought.
So I started with the latest – The Day We Disappeared, to be published by Penguin on 9th April as a paperback and for kindle. Here’s the blurb:
Annie has a secret. But if she’s not going to tell, we won’t either. It’s a heart-breaking secret she wishes she didn’t have – yet Annie isn’t broken, not quite yet. Especially now there’s someone out there who seems determined to fix her.
Kate has run away. But she’s not going to tell us why – that would defeat the point of running, wouldn’t it? It’s proving difficult to reinvent herself, however, with one person always on her mind.
Scratch beneath the surface and nobody is really who they seem. Even Annie and Kate, two old friends, aren’t entirely sure who they are any more. Perhaps you can work it out, before their pasts catch up with them for good . . .
A gripping and unpredictable story of two young women running from their pasts. We defy you to guess the twist . . .
When the twist in this story is what makes this book so dramatically different, it’s also the thing that makes it really, really difficult to review. If I ruined this book for anyone, I’d be mortified – so I’m not even going to try to tell the story, just tell you how I felt about the book. And this really is a quite superb read, and really unexpected. It starts as a pretty conventional romantic read – well drawn characters, a few secrets to be revealed as it progresses – but it’s only lulling you into a false sense of comfort and security, because the book soon changes into something quite different.
There’s a superb cast of characters – Lucy Robinson really is so good at drawing real people in a few deft strokes. Kate and Annie are excellent well-rounded characters, both hiding secrets and problems that we know are going to be part of the story. The settings are fascinating too. Kate works at a stables, full of the most wonderful individuals: Stumpy is magnificent (and I’m really not a horsey person at all), but Becca also won a place in my heart. Annie takes her massage business into a new corporate setting, unable to believe the change in her fortune. Her support network, the wonderful Le Cloob, can’t believe it either – another wonderful group of characters.
Lucy Robinson does something so clever with this book – the gentle humour is there throughout, but that just throws the dark moments (and some moments are very dark indeed) into sharper relief. The ability to do that is a real gift – this book is so much more than the fluffy romance it looks like being at the start. I never really expected to be saying that there were issues raised in this book that will stay with me for some time, but I’m still thinking about it. Wonderful stuff.
So, was it a one-off? Or are all Lucy Robinson’s books this good? On to The Unfinished Symphony of You and Me – I’m ashamed to say that this one has sat on my kindle unread since it was released in June of last year. Again the blurb:
Sally is an incredible singer but she sings only in her wardrobe where nobody can hear her. She’d rather join a nudist colony than sing in public.
That is until she ventures to New York where a wild and heady summer of love and loss changes her forever. No longer able to hide in the shadows, Sally must return home to London to fulfill a promise she cannot break – to share her voice.
But just as she’s about to embark on her new life, a beautiful man turns up on Sally’s doorstep bearing a sheepish smile and a mysterious hand-written message.
How did he find her? Why is he here? Does he hold the truth to what happened back in New York? And, with him back on the scene, will she still have the courage to step into the spotlight?
And the good news is… that I loved this book every bit as much.
Sally was my best friend within the first few pages – I felt her fear and uncertainty, and wanted to be there in the wardrobe with her. The structure is really clever – broken up into acts and scenes, to-ing and fro-ing between Sally’s childhood, the traumatic time in New York and the present day. It’s a wonderful sweeping love story that has you on the edge of your seat, just hoping that things will work out as you want them to.
But the love story isn’t all of it – the book has a hard and realistic edge, dealing with some major and traumatic issues. Again though, the author has that wonderful humour that runs through the whole book – a scene that has you in tears, will be followed by one that has you laughing out loud. And as for the characters – they’re wonderful. I loved the exuberant Jan Borsos, as I expect most people did – but I also adored Sally’s flatmate from Barry Island, and grew particularly fond of Julian’s mother and (unexpectedly) of Sally’s own family. And, while I’m no keener on opera really than I am on horses, the research really brought the whole world of opera to life.
So, my verdict on Lucy Robinson’s books? If you enjoy a good story that takes you somewhere you really don’t expect to go, characters you’ll believe in and love, writing that makes you laugh but sometimes changes into something that tears your heart apart, then please try her books. I haven’t enjoyed a weekend this much in ages.
My thanks to netgalley and publishers Penguin for my copies of both books.
The Day We Disappeared is Lucy Robinson’s fourth novel, following hot on the heels of the widely-acclaimed The Unfinished Symphony of You and Me – a Book of 2014 for several online and print media publications.
Lucy worked in theatre and then television documentaries before starting a blog for Marie Claire about her laughably unsuccessful foray into the world of online dating. She did not meet a man during this time but she did become a novelist: every cloud has a silver lining. She now lives in Bristol with her partner, The Man, whom she met when she took off to Buenos Aires to become a bohemian writer in 2010. She still works in television when time permits and does a lot of walking and strange healthy cooking, which you can laugh at via Twitter, Facebook or her website.