It’s an immense pleasure today to share my review of The Book of Love by Fionnuala Kearney, with many thanks to the author and publishers HarperCollins for my reading e-copy. It’s now available for kindle, with the paperback to follow on 7th February – and another addition to my Books of the Year list. I didn’t think the author could do much better than You, Me & Other People – you’ll find my review here. But then came The Day I Lost You (review here), such a powerful book of love and loss, so exquisitely written. And now… yes, I really think she’s surpassed herself, yet again. I absolutely loved this book.
One love. Two people. Twenty Years.
From the moment they met, Erin and Dom loved each other too much, too quickly. Everyone said it wouldn’t last. But they knew differently.
A wedding present, a notebook, brings them together through the good times and the bad. On the blank pages of their love story, they write down everything they can’t always say – the secrets, the heartbreak, the highs and lows. It’s where they see the best and worst of each other.
Falling in love is easy but staying in love is where the story begins…
This is the Book of Love.
If you read with your heart, as I always do, this book’s billing as “the emotional epic love story of 2018” might just already have caught your eye. Tag lines can sometimes disappoint – but most certainly not this one. I read this wonderful book in fits and starts to begin with, with all life’s interruptions, struggling just a little with its timelines and relationships between characters – emphatically my fault. But then I had the luxury of a long train journey, and an uninterrupted stretch of time to read the book to its glorious conclusion – and once I’d dried my copious tears and recovered my equilibrium, I really just wanted to return to the beginning and read it all over again, to linger over the parts I’d most enjoyed, to see why the book’s construction had worked so very perfectly.
The Book of Love begins in the 90s, the compelling story of the marriage of Erin and Dom, as life throws everything possible at them, testing both their powers of endurance and the strength of their love. The book of the title is a wedding present from Erin’s father – a notebook where they can record their thoughts for the other to read, whenever talking becomes too difficult. The idea of it is wonderful – the insights into the thoughts and real feelings of its writers immensely emotional, the emotions behind each piece so perfectly expressed in the “voices” of its writers, and as a device within the story (oh, that makes it sound so cold!) it’s absolutely inspired.
One of the author’s greatest strengths is in the creation of her characters – everyone within this book, however small their part in the story, was completely authentic in every detail, real people who behave and react in ways that real people do. The relationships – the marriage at its centre, the relationships with the children, the friendships, the lives of the extended family – were as real to me as my own experiences. Love can hurt, and there’s plenty of aching loss and painful sadness within the book’s pages – but there’s also the sheer joy of being party to this exceptional love story, the moments of ecstasy and humour to be found among the twists and turns of their journey through life, and the whole is an overwhelmingly uplifting experience.
Just a word about that timeline. This isn’t a story told in straight lines – it moves backwards and forwards in time, smoothly and with absolute ease. And I haven’t mentioned the words “gripping” or “absorbing” yet – but it most certainly is. There are points in the present when you think you have a grip on the past, and know where Erin and Dom’s story is going – but then another curve pushes you in an entirely different direction and you realise you’ve lost the path and have to think again. Its construction is incredibly clever, and confidently handled by an author at the height of her powers who holds your hand firmly and leads you every step of the way, and never allows you to stumble.
But that love – that mighty love – will clutch your heart, lift you up, break you, and leave you with a depth of emotion unlike anything else you’ll read. Don’t miss this one, whatever you do – its sheer power was stunning, and it was a totally unforgettable read.
About the author
Fionnuala Kearney lives in Ascot with her husband. They have two grown-up daughters (both with deliberately simple monosyllabic names). One of seven children, Fionnuala likes to write about the nuances and subtle layers of human relationships, peeling them away to see what’s really going on beneath.