The blurb for Without Alice starts with these sentences, `Have you ever had a secret? One so important that it feels as if it will tear you in two?' Well that caught me straight away, and there's one thing for sure, Stephen really does have a secret.
I started reading this book when I'd already done seven hours editing, so my eyes were pretty sore, but I thought I'd have a peak and read the first page or two. I eventually stopped approximately half way through the book, simply because my eyes couldn't keep going and it was 1am.
Without Alice begins with a prologue telling us about three different couples in July 1977, who are all at varying stages of parenthood. We then begin with Jennie having just given birth to her son, and almost straight away you realize that her relationship with husband, Stephen, isn't a harmonious one. As much as he instinctively adores his baby son, he isn't happy with Jennie. Stephen has a secret. It's a big secret, and one that causes him heartache, as well as a crushing resentment towards his wife.
Stephen's verbal cruelty to this new mother is vicious. Jennie has enough to contend with already. She's exhausted, and trying to get to grips with the strangeness of her post-baby physique, as well as wanting to enjoy her first precious days, weeks, and months with her baby. The last thing she needs is to be made miserable by her husband.
As you read through the first half of the book, it's hard to find much about Stephen to sympathize with, but as the reality of his secret is learnt you can't help but want him to be okay. I'm still struck by that startling moment when the reader discovers more about his situation and gets to know Alice. I daren't say too much about the story from this point, because I feel it would ruin the experience for the reader, but suffice to say, this was a truly memorable story and one that I won't be able to forget in a hurry. I read the whole book in two sittings and simply couldn't put it down, well, apart from having to sleep when I reached the half way mark.
It was only as I read this book that I realized how perfect (Like Bees to Honey Author) Caroline Smailes's description was when she said, "Governed by duty, lost without love. A truly insightful narrative, controlled by a delicate hand." So true. Congratulations, Denyse, this is an excellent read.