- Hardcover: 312 pages
- Publisher: Beautiful Books Limited (7 Feb. 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1905636067
- ISBN-13: 978-1905636068
- Product Dimensions: 14.6 x 3.2 x 21 cm
- Average Customer Review: 20 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,024,209 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Speaking of Love Hardcover – 23 Mar 2007
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When human beings don't talk about love things go wrong. If a mother had told her daughter, even once, that she loved her they might not have spent years without seeing each other. If a man had found the courage to tell a woman that he'd always loved her she might never have married a different man. And if a father had told his daughter that he loved her when her mother died, she might not have suffered the breakdown that caused a rift with her own daughter years later. But if you are born into a family that never talks about love, how do you learn to say the words? "Speaking of Love" is a first novel about what happens when people who love each other don't say so. It is also about the human need for stories and how stories can help make sense of the random nature of life. The novel is set in East Anglia, in London and at a storytelling festival in the grounds of a medieval castle in south Wales.
From the Author
Angela Young was born in 1951. She has had short stories for children published in the American short story magazines, Cricket and Spider, and a story for adults is published in MsLexia. BBC Books published Young's 30,000-word ending to Edith Wharton's last, unfinished novel, The Buccaneers, and, in 2001, Young graduated from Middlesex university's MA in Creative Writing. Speaking of Love is Young's first novel and she is working on her second novel which will be a modern version of Beauty and the Beast.See all Product description
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This is an ambitious first novel, and to be honest I wasn't entirely sure that Young quite pulled it off. For example, there were some dangers in having one of the main narrators an alcoholic (who suffered frequent memory blanks due to nights of debauchery) and another a schizophrenic who'd lost large chunks of memory due to brutal ECT therapy. What this means in practice is that the novel has some considerable holes in terms of plot. We never learn exactly what happened to Iris's mother (though Iris's later memories do give a strong clue), why Kit deserted his family having earlier promised to marry Iris, who looked after Vivie for the long periods that Iris was sick, and how Iris managed to become a professional storyteller. The character of John Dexter is a puzzlement - is he a real man that Iris once met, who become a hallucination for her, or is he a hallucination in total, and does that therefore mean that Iris was going mad much earlier than we might think? Some aspects of the story didn't seem believable - I have no idea how Iris and Vivie survived financially (could anyone really make a living as a milliner in the 1970s, particularly in the remote countryside?) and how Vivie was educated as they lived somewhere so remote - presumably Dick and Joan took her to school along with Matthew? And although we got plenty about Vivie and Matthew's childhood, there was rather a gap between this and the descriptions of their adult lives, so that I had no idea how Vivie had got to the position of having a career in advertising/marketing, and what Matthew had done in the years after he was rejected by Vivie. I would have liked a few more facts to make the story hang together a bit better. There was also the problem that Vivie came across for large sections as very unpleasant, with her laziness, drinking and tendency to abuse anyone she could: this meant that it was quite hard to sympathize with her (until the later sections of the book, when she suddenly appeared vulnerable) or to understand Matthew's obsession - I ended up feeling sorry for poor Julia, the girl Matthew had abandoned for Vivie.
However, all this taken into account I would still very much recommend this book. Young writes beautifully, with wonderful descriptive language; the descriptions of Matthew and Dick's journey from Suffolk down to Wiltshire and then on across to Wales are particularly poetic and lovely. Iris's stories inserted in the book are haunting and beautiful, and I thought the theme of storytelling, and of how it sustained Iris but also turned sinister, was well-handled. The central theme of the need for compassion was an important one, and Young also described very vividly the horrors Iris experiences when 'mad', and the relief she feels when she finally gets appropriate treatment. Overall, I thought this was a very moving depiction of enduring love and family relationships, which made a beautiful - if not always entirely satisfying - read and one I will revisit.
I would recommend readers of this book to also look at Eleanor Bailey's marvellous 'Idioglossia', another story about schizophrenia and mother-daughter relationships, told in an equally lyrical if rather contrasting style.
I have to admit that in spite of its seductive opening Angela Young's debut novel at times tested my patience. It has a well-rehearsed theme, announced in its title, its epigraph, in the blurb and in its many references to that thing called love, but for me this frequently cloyed. Yes, despite dealing with schizophrenia, mental breakdown and psychic fragility this is definitely Romantic fiction. It has a strong feel-good factor, obviously intends to spread happiness around, but is too simplistic to make a strong impact - on me, at least.
Love is a good thing and needs to be expressed. That is the message that is repeated throughout, but all three tellers whose lives dominate the book fail to articulate this, hence their suffering - and how! They are constantly caught sobbing, holding back tears or with tears streaming down faces, and yet I was totally unmoved by their predicaments. Would they have been any happier if they'd expressed their feelings?
However, I persevered to the end so the book must have had some positive qualities. One of these is in the author's use of different points of view - the story centres around Iris, the mother of Vivie, who is misallied to her husband Charles, a man of logic who frequently makes her feel as if he `had dropped an emotional sandbag on her head.' We never get Charles's version of his wife, an alcoholic who can't hold a job down, hisses frequently and has missed out on the only man who might have rescued her - the shy and retiring Matthew who never told his love until it was too late. The short chapters told in first or third person give the reader relief, as do the long stories told by the clumsy ECT victim, the mentally ill mother, Iris, whose fairy tales dominate the book.
The novel is overloaded with symbols: the colour red and the laburnum tree being the most intrusive. The laburnum always invokes the family's childhood past; it was grafted by the war veteran Dick for Iris and its endurance comforts her in her malady.
From amongst all these lost and floating people (some like Iris's potential lover Kit just fade from sight) there emerges the wise Dad, who knows all about the dangers of repression, and speaks on his author's behalf, instructs young Matthew about the best routes to travel (big symbol) and manages to extract from his son those three magic words, `I love you.'
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Most recent customer reviews
Speaking of Love tells the story of Iris, a damaged woman suffering with...Read more
What I loved about it, was that it is one of those books where each person tells their part of the story...Read more
I cried buckets at the beautiful (not harrowing) ending!