Headstrong Virginia Fortescue leaves her home and what's left of her family behind in New York City and begins driving an ambulance in France during World War I. While there she falls in love with a charismatic British army surgeon and as they begin a passionate love affair, she learns that Captain Simon Fitzwilliam is hiding secrets of his own.
Five years later and newly widowed Virginia Fitzwilliam has just arrived in Cocoa Beach, Florida to settle her husband's estate. There was a house fire, and while his brother confirmed it was indeed Simon inside the house, Virginia has her doubts that he's really dead. After all, Simon was cunning and kept his share of secrets from her - secrets that ruined their marriage and had Virginia fleeing back to New York very early on. But now she needs to uncover the truth, not for herself, but for the sake of their daughter.
I didn't find this one as good as her others. It goes back and forth between when Virginia met and fell in love with Simon and afterwards where we learn they are married but not together and they have a daughter Simon doesn't even know about. At first I didn't like that this was only about one character. Usually we have two different people from two different time periods. I also found that it was a bit overly descriptive; too wordy and repetitious at times. I do love Williams' writing - she paints a vivid picture with real characters. There was no shortage of secrets, lies, and manipulation. The story really picked up towards the end. But the actual ending - I do not understand what happened. I did not enjoy reading this book as much as I like it looking back on it now that it's over.
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This was a decent read. I don't quite feel that it was the author's best, but it was okay for me.
Throughout the whole book, I didn't get the beach read feel. Both of the main characters were experiencing loss or were just sad. It was kind of a downer for me with that going on. It just wasn't as upbeat as most beach reads. It was very different. A good read, just not what I expected.
Thanks to Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
I have been an admirer of Ian McEwan's writing style since my introduction to 'Atonement' (see earlier review) and when The Times listed him among "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945", I can plainly see why. By comparison, I was less enamoured by 'Solar' (also previously reviewed), but my latest dip into the McEwan listings, the novella, 'On Chesil Beach', is in many ways a quite remarkable piece of writing.
Firstly, the book, comprising just 166 pages, split into five parts, is exquisitely crafted. The author's use of language is concise, but sumptuous and though short, the book packs a complex emotional punch, which the reader shares with newly weds Edward and Florence. From undiluted joy to excruciating despair, the couple's developing insights are naive and poignant in equal measure and McEwan tackles head-on the nature of intimacy and passion as they nudge towards the consummation of their marriage.
For the bulk of the book, the author succeeds in slowing time, launching back from the wedding day in successive reflections that map the couple's respective journeys. Each from very different backgrounds, Edward and Florence have managed to rise above the shortcomings of their parentage and by some quirk of serendipity, to find each other, which is of itself heart-warming. Yet, the book exposes potential flaws in the superficial 1960's courtship ritual and the brittle, untested facade, which they have contrived to create. There is little doubt that they love one another, but is it enough and can they fashion a workable compromise, on which to build a life together?
Perhaps some matches are made in heaven, but to succeed they have to be made to work at the human level. In this frank and at times crude exploration of 'need', it seems clear that we can be a fickle bunch, and even among the well-educated, sometimes held hostage to irrational base instincts.