Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Should You Ask Me - Marianne Kavanagh

I will admit I did struggle with this for the first thirty pages or so. I’ve come across the dual confession narrative before and found it to be effective but for some reason it wasn’t gelling for me initially. However I’m not one to easily give up on a book. In fact I can’t remember the last time I did. And if a publisher ( thanks - Hodder & Stoughton) has been generous enough to send me a review copy my natural courtesy insists I finish it. And how glad I am!! For as I got into my stride I found this book to be enormously enjoyable.

Marianne Kavanagh is a new name for me and although getting to know someone is a pleasure it can take a little time. And so it took me some time to ‘find’ the writer’s voice and it took me some time to get to know Mary and William. But it was so worth it.

For their stories are unusual and their arrival at mutual understanding was touching and satisfying. The story takes place over six days in the novel’s contemporary time setting of the second world war with William’s story starting a little earlier and Mary’s considerably earlier! I do not wish to give too much away but if you are interested in the themes this book has to offer then love must surely head that list, closely followed by loss, heartache, missed opportunities and the keeping of secrets.

The writer has sustained the historic authenticity of both time frames and locations yet never loses her way, suggesting some faultless research and plotting. Both the main characters are developed and then sustained throughout and it feels as if we are privy to the growing of their mutual association and respect. 

And whilst it is relatively easy to identify the themes, assigning a genre seems more challenging. I like that in a book!! Our need to compartmentalise can sometimes be counter productive and inhibiting. You could say this is a war story. Or an historical novel. Or a love story maybe? A mystery? The wonderful Emma Thompson suggests it is ‘An unputdownable combination of thriller and psychological drama’. That all suggests that there is something for everyone. You can’t get better than that.

The derivation of the title of the novel is, too, a point of interest raising awareness of, to me anyway, a little known poet Vera Rich. Her titular poem is quoted in full at the beginning of the book. And the whole story was apparently inspired by a natural history book about Purbeck Island. All adding to the richness of this deceptively slender volume. 

And if, like me, you falter in the initial stages of the book do persevere for I doubt very much that you will be disappointed.

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