It was an immense pleasure to welcome Christine Webber as my guest last month to mark the release of her latest novel So Many Ways of Loving: it was a post I really enjoyed (you can read it again here), and I’m happy to report that I’ve now reorganised my own underwear drawers (and the ones holding my many pairs of pyjamas) and feel considerably more ready for whatever life might decide to throw at me.
The book was published on 17th June, and is now available both as an ebook and in paperback – and today I’m delighted to share my review. Christine was kind enough to send me an advance e-copy, but the formatting wasn’t quite as user friendly as we’d both hoped it would be – the copy I read was purchased for my kindle via Amazon.
Let’s take a closer look…
‘A poignant and insightful tale of widowhood and other challenges of later life which really resonated with my clinical experience.’ Dr Max Pemberton – Psychiatrist and Daily Mail columnist
So Many Ways of Loving is a novel in which, at first glance, nothing much happens – there’s no espionage, no high-speed car chases, murders, or haunted houses. But in a sense, everything happens – loss, death, grief, serious illness, but also birth, unexpected romance, fresh adventures and numerous possibilities.
Three women in their 50s and 60s travel through the most momentous year of their lives, and as they do so, they are reminded of just how much we depend upon family, friends and pets.
There was a time when it was quite difficult to find books that had the lives of older women as their focus – thank goodness, that’s no longer the case, and the world of reading is considerably better and more varied as a result. But I must say that I’m not sure I’ve come across a book as emotionally authentic as this one – the three women, all approaching their sixties, at the heart of the story became my friends as I read and shared their lives and experiences, laughed with them and cried with them, and I was quite bereft when the time came to leave them behind.
The three women first meet when they answer an advert to work for an innovative new company – but soon decide the “opportunity” isn’t for them, and they decamp for coffee and cake at The Granary, a newly opened arts cinema near the river. Monica is perhaps the stiffest of the three, less comfortable in company, buttoned up in more ways than just her staid clothing, her life focused on the needs of her newly retired husband. Lucy is dangerously overweight, but certainly has a lust for life – with a few secrets about her circumstances and the unusual activities that fill her time that slowly emerge as the story progresses. Jen, formerly a journalist, now finds herself alone, having lost the love of her life to motor neurone disease, keeping busy to divert herself from her aloneness and her immense sense of loss.
By chance, the cinema is looking for teams of volunteers to help out as their popularity increases, and that ties the group of new friends together, rewarded by free refreshments and complimentary cinema passes. The book then follows a year in their lives – first dipping back into their recent experiences, then following the many changes in their lives. In many ways, it’s right to say “nothing much happens” – but it’s an entirely compelling read watching these women move on with their lives through their many ups and downs. There are many small twists and surprises – each of the women has their secrets or moments from the past affecting their present, slowly revealed and explored, and all three of them found a place in my heart. Emotionally, this book is absolute perfection – you really can’t fail to feel their every setback, share their dreams, desperately wanting them to find happiness in their futures. Sadly, life doesn’t always work out that way – and the book certainly shares that reality, with moments of sheer joy and immense sadness along the way.
I really liked the way the story was constructed and the women’s stories allowed to unfold – there’s a nice fluidity about the structure, chapters moving from character to character, from experience to experience. It’s largely done by sharing thoughts, and through many reflections and conversations, and that was something I really enjoyed. The characterisation is just wonderful – and not just the women themselves, but every supporting character, however fleeting their appearance. A fourth woman features quite heavily in the story, interacting with all three and helping move the story forward – she was a main character in one of the author’s earlier books, and I did find it a particular personal treat to find out how her life had moved on since we last saw her.
There’s no doubt that this book might be most enjoyed by an older reader – there was so much to identify with, all those moments of recognition, of identifying with a shared experience. But this really is a book with great appeal for any reader – it’s a life-enhancing read, hopeful and uplifting, filled with possibilities, a slice of real life with its everyday struggles and challenges, filled with humour but with significant moments of real sadness, and I must say I loved every single moment. Very highly recommended – this is a book I’ll find difficult to forget.
About the author
Christine Webber tried various careers in her younger days – she was a classical singer, a Principal Boy in pantomimes, an undistinguished actress as well as a piano and singing teacher. Fortunately, for her, when she was thirty, she managed to get a job in television as a continuity announcer, and shortly thereafter she became a news presenter at Anglia TV. Finally, she had found an occupation she liked that other people thought she was good at. This was a massive relief.
In her early forties, she married the love of her life, Dr David Delvin. Soon afterwards, she decided to leave news presenting in order to train as a psychotherapist, and she also became a problem page columnist for various publications including TV Times, Best, BBC Parenting, The Scotsman and Woman. In addition, she regularly broadcast relationship advice on Trisha, The Good Sex Guide…Late and from the BBC’s Breakfast sofa.
In her fifties, she and her husband set up a practice in Harley Street, and they worked together there and collaborated on several books. They also wrote the sex/relationships content on www.netdoctor.co.uk and penned a joint column for the health section of The Spectator.
Over the decades, Christine was commissioned to write ten self-help books including Get the Happiness Habit, How to Mend a Broken Heart and Too Young to Get Old.
Now, in her seventies, her focus is on the issues of mid and later life. As well as writing novels, she makes video podcasts on positive ageing and writes a column for various regional papers on that theme. She is also a life coach specialising in health and ageing.