5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Serious fiction with 100% entertainment value,
This review is from: The Secret Intensity of Everyday Life (Paperback)
I don't know how I missed The Secret Intensity of Everyday Life when it was published in 2009, but when it was followed over the next two or three years by a second and third book (All the Hopeful Lovers and The Golden Hour) the trilogy caught my attention.
When I eventually picked up this book this summer I found that I was staying up into the early hours to finish with its difficult marriages, unruly teens and assertive grand-parents who populate this beguiling saga of contemporary relationships.
The book is based in a fictional village near Lewes, the county town of East Sussex and anyone who knows the area will recognise the idyllic English setting inhabited by a mix of London commuters, local arts and crafts people, retired professionals and less well-off families struggling to survive in this prosperous land of Waitrose stores and private schools.
The book opens with a breakfast scene. Henry is a television director who is in the midst of fighting political battles over his latest project. The postman comes and Laura sees an envelope written in the unmistakeable hand-writing of Nick, a lover from years gone by, and postpones opening it until Henry has gone to catch a train. Will she respond to Nick's suggestion that they meet up to catch-up after a twenty year gap in their relationship?
Within a few pages we encounter other members of the cast - Liz who sits opposite Henry on the train (a single mother who seems unable to break from her manipulative ex-husband), Alan a teacher who has a private sexual routine perhaps unfitting for a teacher, Alan, a vicar who's pastoral concern for his congregation carries on despite his loss of faith and Marion, the unstable woman who dotes on him. The reader will interact with these and many other people over the next 384 pages (and a further two volumes if you care to).
Nicholson has the knack of getting behind the superficial events of his people's lives to describe motivation common to us all, and as I read this I recognised the struggles for personal integrity which underpin so many of our life-choices. Nicholson's people are above all "real", and as their underlying attitudes, anxieties and ambitions are laid before us, it is difficult not to identify with these characters and maybe to understand ourselves a little better.
I find that the mark of a good novel is when the people in the book live on and I experience a sense of loss when I turn the final page. Four months have passed since I read it and I still hanker after knowing what came next in the lives of this finely drawn cast who I became so involved with this summer.