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The Perfect Affair Paperback – 6 Mar 2014
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'An exquisitively written, emotional book about impossible love and the moments that make life beautiful' Julie Cohen, author of Dear Thing. (Dear Thing)
About the Author
Claire Dyer is a published, prize-winning poet. She is Chairperson of Reading Writers and gives solo and group poetry readings around the UK. She lives outside Reading.
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This is a beautifully written novel, full of emotion but also accurately capturing the essence of an affair, or two.
The two stories, that of Rose and Henry in the past, and the one that is being conducted in the here and now between Eve and author Myles are both engaging. In case you are mislead neither affair is full of heaving bodies, the beauty is in their snatched moments of forbidden love of (for the most part) more cerebral kind.
In the 60s Rose shared a flat with Eve’s Grandmother Verity and relishing her single life meets Henry at work. The description of dresses, that Rose keeps into her old age along with a box full of memories are for the future, now life is for living but will her love of Henry win the day?
In the present Eve’s marriage to Andrew has become distant and to make matters worse she is facing their daughter leaving home to start her life as an independent adult. In short, in common with many women of her age, life is changing and Eve begins to examine what she has. When she meets crime writer Myles on a visit to see her old friend Rose, a spark is lit. But, the same question is raised, will the pair end up together, or apart? What was particularly enjoyable about this story is that the past was seamlessly woven with the present as Rose looked back on her life while watching over Eve in the present. This avoided the sometimes jarring quality of switching between time periods that can occur in the hands of a lesser writer.
The scenes where Myles struggles with his detective series lifted the book. It’s just how I imagine it – shall we have a dog walker finding the body? What will forensics turn up? All interspersed with Myles, not thinking fondly about his controlled wife Celeste, or his two sons but about the woman who he is falling in love with. As is inevitable if the reader is going to fully engage with the affairs, their marriages are not painted in a particularly flattering light, but nor are they painted so blackly that the reader is left thinking that no one would have remained in such a marriage.
The writing is brilliant and almost lyrical without being too ‘poncy.’ With a realistic look at two very different affairs, separated by years and circumstances, this book had me entranced. So even though romantic novels are far from my usual kind of reading fare, there was more than enough depth to this one to entirely hold my attention. I have to admit in many ways I found Rose’s story the more poignant of the two because there is the realisation of what discovery would mean for a young woman in that era and what it could mean for her future. As for Eve I will just say that my views were in accordance with Rose’s.
Rose has divided her house into two flats, she lives upstairs and rents the downstairs space to Myles, a writer of detective novels. Rose’s regular visitor, Eve, is like the grand-daughter she never had, and is a connection to Rose’s past. In the Sixties, Rose shared a house with Eve’s grandmother Verity. One day Eve and Myles meet. There is a spark of attraction which shocks them both and makes each examine the state of their own marriage. As they come to terms with what this means, Rose watches from afar. In love and seeking the perfect love affair, Rose remembers when she fell in love in the Sixties. Finally a decision must be made.
Dyer writes with a gentle hand, small details showing her understanding of the emotions involved. After meeting Eve for the first time, Myles is disorientated: ‘He’d been OK when he’d left home earlier but now he feels mostly unsettled, as though a fault line has positioned itself under his feet and he knows it’s there and it knows it’s there too.’ Alongside the sense of inevitability, danger lurks. An emotional novel, skilfully written.
It would be easy to say that writers of words make stories but they don't, not really, as anyone can string words together, but words only become stories in the hands of a true storyteller. Only a magician of words can take and mould a story into something special and believable and only a talented writer can take a story, a set of characters and make the reader believe what they are reading.
That lovely phrase about fairies springs to mind...if you believe in fairies, clap your hands...well, here's a new one, if you believe in storytellers, read this book.
Whatever your view on affairs, they do happen, and this story is sympathetically told without any sensationalism or lack of respect for third parties who might be affected.
The story of Rose, the elderly friend, was particularly moving, and formed an essential strand to the main story.
If you want to be swept up a love story, try this.
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