Yes, I know I’m still supposed to be on my Christmas/New Year break, but I really did have to interrupt it today to bring you my review of the new book by Christine Campbell, Rose and Laurie, published on 26th December. It’s now available for kindle via Amazon (and as part of the Kindle Unlimited programme): it’s also available in paperback, and you can buy that here.
You might just remember my review – this time last year – of Christine’s book, Gold Plated. It was one of those lovely chance discoveries – a mention on the Books for Older Readers website and Facebook page, a little push in my direction by Wendy Janes (thank you Wendy!), and an author who writes the kind of books that I really want to read.
In full disclosure, I first read this book quite a long time before its release – Christine asked me to take a look at some of the scenes set in a nursing home, just to see if they rang true. No real input was required, I thought they were excellent – and although the original plan was to read only those scenes, I got so caught up in the wonderful story that I read it from cover to cover, and enjoyed every moment. As publication date drew nearer, I had the opportunity (and privilege) to read a more polished draft – and loved it all over again. And so will everyone who reads it…
Set partly in London, partly in Edinburgh and mostly on the Scottish island of Arran, Rose and Laurie is about loyalty and love, sadness and betrayal, as well as forgiveness and new starts.
With mysteries to be solved, relationships to forge and romances rekindled, it’s a character driven story that goes on a journey with twists and turns on the way.
Rose, an outgoing, feisty woman, enjoys a challenge. She lives in London, with her husband, has a fulfilling job and a daughter at university. Her life is all mapped out – until she’s blown off course by events outwith her control.
Laurie lives a quiet life with her mother on the Scottish Island of Arran. Unmarried and childless, she struggles with disruption and uncertainty. When her mother’s dementia necessitates moving her into a nursing home, Laurie sees only loneliness ahead – until she uncovers something that explains her past and will change her future.
When their separate journeys bring them together, Rose and Laurie find they have more in common than they could ever have guessed.
I thought this story was just wonderful – it’s immensely emotionally engaging, with repeated twists and turns that keep you turning the pages, and characters who really come to life on the page. The two women at the heart of the book are superbly drawn. The book starts with the disintegration of Rose’s marriage – told in the present tense, which increases the impact of her husband’s betrayal. But she’s a woman with real internal strength, and we watch her put her life back together, recovering her confidence as she takes refuge with her father in Edinburgh – until the story takes an unexpected turn, and her foundations again become rather less firm.
The other main character is Laurie. The author has a way of getting right inside her characters – their thoughts, their fears and joys, their internal debates – and the handling of the relationship with her mother Mary, the unavoidable decision to move her into care, the way she feels about both her mother’s deterioration, and her emotional response to the situation are absolutely authentic and very moving. She captures quite perfectly the overwhelming sadness and guilt, balanced by the knowledge that the decision is the only one possible – there was so much there that I recognised and totally identified with. The portrayal of Mary is spot-on too – the “locked in” unresponsiveness balanced with those precious moments of recognition and lucidity, even the slight obsession with the weather.
The two stories converge in a wholly unexpected way, the background story – and what a story – bringing that about perfectly integrated, the transitions never anything other than smooth and easy. It’s a tremendously compelling story, a page-turner with real emotional content – an exploration of motherhood and family in a number of different contexts, both complicated and enriched by the secrets of the past.
There’s a well-handled blossoming romance too – a rather lovely one. The author really does have a very special touch with characterisation and relationships – there are moments of real joy amid all the uncertainty as the whole story slowly unfolds, and elsewhere a poignancy that can’t help but touch your heart as it did mine. And I do really have to mention the book’s exceptionally strong sense of place – particularly the parts set on Arran, previously unfamiliar to me, but brought vividly to life.
The whole was a story I really loved – it might have particular appeal for older readers with such authenticity about the relationships and depth of feelings, but there’s so much here that any reader would enjoy. And the writing itself? It’s tremendously accomplished, and ticked every single box for me. Highly recommended – do add it to your reading list!
About the author
Christine Campbell lives in a small village outside of Edinburgh with her husband, whatever assortment of children and grandchildren happen to be visiting at the time – and perhaps her first great-granddaughter too. How exciting is that?
When she has a moment of peace, and is not distracted by the varied wildlife currently taking up residence in her garden and the field beyond, Christine writes novels or posts on her blog as well as producing occasional videos about her writing on her Facebook page. You can also find her on Twitter.
You can find all her novels, in paperback or ebook, via her Amazon author page.