It’s a real pleasure today to be sharing my review of Finding Verity by Jenny Loudon, available for kindle (just 99p, or free via Kindle Unlimited) and in paperback. My thanks to Jenny for the invitation to join the book birthday celebration – her debut novel is two years old today.
It frequently amazes me – and it certainly repeatedly perplexes me – that there are so many books that spend their lives lying just beneath the radar. In its two years, this book has gathered only 25 reviews – but all are five stars. But I might not have discovered this book at all had the author not approached me – Jenny is a fellow member of Book Connectors, the timing seemed right as the book’s birthday was approaching, and she sent me a “pitch” when she noticed my reading preferences. She thought we looked like a perfect match – and I must say, she was absolutely right.
An unhappy woman. An unfinished romance. A sense that time is running out…
Verity Westwood is a successful London businesswoman whose husband is handsome but selfish. When Edward Farrell, a nomadic American journalist from her past, returns unexpectedly, she is swept by the irresistible desire to fulfil her dreams of working as an artist, like her famous father before her. After being caught in a storm on the Cote d’Azur, she vows to change her life.
What she does not foresee is the struggle involved, the ultimate price she will pay, and the powerful force of enduring love that changes everything.
The premise of this book is one of the most relatable possible for an older reader – where have the years gone, and is it too late (or simply wrong) to want to follow your dreams. Verity probably settled for second best – the beige husband, the raising of her family, the building of a successful interior design business, the cracks in both her happiness and her marriage papered over. There were other possibilities when she was young – the heady excitement of her first meeting with free spirit Edward, the widening of her possible horizons, the endless possibilities – but she made her choices, and lived within them.
But she’s now approaching 50, and it’s her time again. The nest is finally empty, she still has dreams and the means to change her life – the home in the country she’s wanted for so long, the opportunity to find out whether she has the talent to make her way as the artist she always aspired to be, the possibility of that second chance she feels she now deserves. But she might not be brave enough – and the obstacles might prove too many.
In many ways, this is a romance, but a particularly powerful and moving one – the presence of Edward ebbs and flows as he keeps his distance and lives his less conventional life, but the electricity when his path and Verity’s cross is palpable, the emotional content quite wonderfully handled. There is a wider cast of well-drawn characters – the co-workers, the chance meetings, the supportive friends – but it’s Verity and her pursuit of her escape who constantly draws the eye, sympathetic and relatable.
But I was impressed by the realness of the two primary male characters too. Husband Matt could well have been one-dimensional and the “hate” figure, but he’s much more than that – behaving very badly at times, but real and recognisable. And Edward too – he’s more than just unattainable and forbidden, with considerable complexity to both his background and his emotional responses.
The writing is superb – literary in many ways – with vivid settings, filled with quite exceptional descriptions of the natural world that permeates the story and excites Verity as an artist. But there’s also a cleverly managed narrative drive that made it a surprisingly compelling read. There are moments of lightness, and humour – those slices of life that make the whole feel so real – and others when you feel at your core the frustration, the despair, the sheer impossibility of anything changing.
I thought it was quite stunning, and likely to be one of my books of the year – and I’m particularly impressed that this is the author’s debut. I’ll be looking forward very much to seeing what Jenny Loudon does next.
About the author
Jenny Loudon is a debut novelist who has worked as an editor, researcher and proof-reader. She read English and American Literature at the University of Kent at Canterbury, and gained a Masters in The Modern Movement. She currently lives with her family in the English countryside.