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Love and Fallout Paperback – 9 Jun 2014
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'Engrossing and engaging. This is a funny and acutely observed book about an often overlooked moment in history. The expectations women have of themselves and each other are exposed in Simmonds' wry story of friendship and loss.' - Catherine O'Flynn
A blast from the past - beautifully told - Maureen Lipman
Kathryn Simmonds draws us effortlessly into the world of Greenham Common, and the result is unexpected, and compelling. Love, sisterhood, guilt and grief - she understands them all. I read it in a single sitting.' - Francesca Segal, author of The Innocents
This is a really good read and a reminder of Greenham Common at a time when the world is again risking nuclear confrontation. It's also the story of waning love and the challenge of maturity. - Clare Short
A fantastic debut, captivating, funny, brilliantly observed and a great read. -Bookgroup.info
A tale of love and loss - engrossing and compelling. - The Lady
This novel transported me and I have vowed to buy a number of copies of Love and Fallout to send to old associates to see if it works its restorative magic and reacquaints me with lost friends too. - Wales Arts Review
There's a real sense of authenticity as the formative experiences of youth shape family and relationships. Great character observations; sometimes excruciating, often heartbreakingly sad, frequently funny. - Which Book
About the Author
Kathryn Simmonds first book of poetry Sunday at the Skin Launderette won the Forward Prize for best first collection in 2008. She is a graduate of the Creative Writing MA at the University of East Anglia. Love and Fallout is her first novel and was a finalist in the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize before it was published. In 2013-14 she was the first poet-in-residence at the Charles Causley Trust in Launceston, Cornwall.
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I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and it really does deserve a much wider audience. Today's Tessa is an adopter of every possible "good cause", battling for funding for the charity she runs, struggling with her marriage and her relationship with her daughter. The Tessa who moves into the peace camp in the 80s is very different - not so much driven by the cause, more by the fact that her relationship with her boyfriend has broken down and that she's bored with her office job and the routine of daily life.
In the present day, friend Maggie and husband Pete arrange a very unwelcome TV makeover - well intended, Tessa only agrees to it as a way of publicising her many causes. The makeover scenes are very funny - and you wonder how on earth two people that know her so well could have believed she'd enjoy the experience. I worried a little about the "fit" of the makeover story with the book as a whole - but it really does work. Tessa's relationships, past and present, are exceptionally well written - in the present day there are the sessions with Valeria the counsellor, the tip-toeing around her marriage, and the excruciating awkwardness and moments of real pain in her relationship with her daughter Pippa, whose life choices are perhaps as questionable as those of her mother at a similar age.
The Greenham scenes are vividly described, a really authentic recreation of their time, an insight into what life was like for the women involved, and a fascinating exploration of some very intense relationships. Young Tessa is quite wonderfully drawn - naive, awkward, almost always out of step - and you watch situations unfold with dread and fascination. And, as the story develops, you discover how and why the young girl who struggled with her understanding of what Greenham was all about turned into the woman of today, whose personal relationships are threatened by her relentless pursuit of every possible cause.
This is a book that really has a bit of everything - there are some wonderfully funny moments, scenes when you cringe, other times of heartbreaking sadness. The Tessa of today and of the 80s is rarely anything but thoroughly likeable, and she has you in her corner throughout - even when you're watching her in absolute frustration at her actions.
The book is always relatively easy reading, but beautifully observed. The descriptions and emotions sometimes cause you to catch your breath, and the light touch humour throughout is quite perfectly judged. This really is a thoroughly excellent first novel by a very talented writer - I enjoyed it immensely, and so will many other people.
Tessa’s worst nightmare starts to come true when her best friend arranges a surprise TV makeover. She's never been the kind of woman who worries about what she looks like in the mirror and right now Tessa has bigger concerns. Her business is on the verge of collapse, her husband is unhappy and her daughter wants to take part in beauty pageant.
As a woman who has spent her life trying to save the planet, including joining the Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp as a teenager, Tessa can’t comprehend her family’s complaints, any more than they can understand her desperate need to cling on to the illusions of the past. Then Angela gets in touch, the one girl that she had never been able to get on with in Greenham Common, and the memories of the past come flooding back.
As a teenager, Tessa is badly let down by love and is desperate to escape the confines of her home town. She decides to make her way to Greenham Common, a place where men were not welcome, in order to come to terms with her loss. Tessa has no real idea what the women are fighting for when she arrives and has a hard time fitting in with the group until she finds a friend in Rori, the camp live wire. Naive and innocent, Tessa often makes mistakes as she tries to embrace the greater knowledge of the women around her, leading to an embarrassingly comical interaction with a journalist.
The chapters switch between the present and the past to explore how Tessa’s time with the women in Greenham Common has shaped her. The conditions the women lived in are well drawn and evocative. The camps were rough and basic, the camaraderie and passionate beliefs of the women the driving force behind keeping the campaign to stop the bombs alive. Every time the women left the camp they never knew if they were going to find kindness or discrimination, which reinforces the sense of loyalty between them.
The undercurrents of each relationship, both in the past and the present, are well observed and written with humour and understanding. Love and Fallout is an apt title for this sensitive and compelling novel, as Tessa faces the painful lessons of the past while searching for a sense of peace in the present.
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