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on 29 June 2012
Having read some of the reviews here I was wondering if I'd read the same book. I found this book particularly engaging because I have a great affection for Southwold, the Suffolk town where the story is set. Myerson brings the town so much to life with her prose that it is perhaps not surprising that I found her book wonderfully evocative of very happy times spent there.

Some reviewers have criticised her for not using speech marks when writing dialogue. As you read the book however, you realise you are inside the head of Tess, the best friend of Lennie, the murder victim written about at the beginning of the novel. Being inside the head of this character means you see those conversations from her viewpoint - they are not meant to be direct transcripts. Therefore the writing works particularly well and helps us understand the world from her perspective, which is really what the whole book is about. Yes, she is somewhat detached but she has just experienced as huge a trauma as anybody is likely to and is going through a period in her life as so many do, when they question everything in their existence.

The denouement is one of the saddest, most emotionally gut-wrenching I have read in a contemporary novel and again makes me wonder why some have suggested that the ending is unsatisfactory. It is a book that takes the mundane and everyday and turns it into something sharp, sensual and apposite to our lives. Myerson should be applauded for not entering into a whodunnit and for not sensationalising the plot. The point here is that in many ways we live our lives in our heads, and sometimes get lost in those thoughts and emotions. This is a book that allows the reader real insight into those thoughts and hits you right in the solar plexus when key events truly change the protagonists' lives.

A fantastic read and one I would heartily recommend.
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on 12 July 2006
Hmm not a favourite. Too much conversation (and I too found the lack of quotation marks irritating) and IMHO superfluous conversation at that - it was't scene setting, character development, story development, it just felt as if the author needed to crank up the size... Quite apart from the story (about which I am still not convinced) the whole style of the book irked me and I really didn't like and failed to identify with the key character (in fact she was the ONLY character, everyone else seemed to be a two dimensional after thought). Maybe I am am staid and boring but I aldo found her ability to shift emotional attachments (which was a key element of the story) more akin to that a 15 year old in the throes of adolescence and not a middle aged woman (who I am so I reckon I know about which I speak!) with a family and children.
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on 4 February 2005
An absolutely absorbing story. It wraps around your heart stealthily without you knowing, right up to the very end. It has a murder and a romance, but these are quite secondary to the haunting otherness of the place and above all the ordinarily unacknowledged feeling of safety in routine which shatters so profoundly and unexpectedly. Wonderfully, unpretentiously written, yet so acurately, that even Livvy the baby is vividly realised!
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on 13 August 2004
Like the last reviewer,and UNLIKE the one before, I found this title un-put-downable. Not knowing the author, I had no preconceptions; what a wonderful surprise then to find myself being drawn into an extraordinary account of an extraordinary event in a very ordinary community. It's convincing, moving, beautifully written and surprising in both content and style. The apparent story-line, that of an unsettling murder in a small English seaside town, belies the novel's true intent and strength, for in fact it's "about" loss, of loved ones and love, fear, of the unknown and emotion, and courage, for facing the future and one's self. The writing is deceptively simple, dialogue is unimpeded by punctuation, giving speech a sense of immediacy and reality, and the honesty with which Myerson tackles relationships, marriage, friendship, love and longing is unusual and admirable. I doubt the author has written better, but I am now on a quest to make time to read her other titles as soon as I can lay my hands on them!
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on 14 October 2009
Potential for a really great story but the lack of quotation marks to separate thought from conversation and dialogue from one to another was a very large distraction for me and prevented a smooth read. What could have been a nice flowing story because stilted and halted for me...maybe other readers would not be bothered by this but each time the flow became interrupted, so do the interest.
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on 8 June 2008
This book is incredibly unrealistic and I really struggled to feel anything for any of the characters. The original death is dealt with well but the pointless gratuitous sex and the two main events that happen near the end are forced, almost laughable in their proximity to each other and just their likelihood of actually happening... I didn't see anything in this book that made me want to read her other books or even read this one again.

I'm moving house soon and this is definitely going to be going to the charity shop...
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on 23 July 2004
Did the previous reviewer read the same book as me?! I finished it in two nights - it would have been one but when I got to 2am I had to reluctantly put it aside to finish the following night. I was gripped and absorbed throughout. Julie Myerson's stunning evocation of place, beauty of language, masterly storytelling and above all(for me) heart-rending truth of Tess's predicament - her overriding love for her children, told in such loving small detail, and indeed for her husband, coming up against the baffling but gnawing and ever-growing certainty that there must be more than this -it pierced me to the core. I could identify with Tess's plight (how many thinking independent mums out there couldn't?) in a way that found me constantly putting the book down and staring into space, contemplating a particularly piquant truth, which only the finest weavers of real-life situations and fictional settings can achieve. The on-the-face-of-it main theme of the loss of Tess's best friend and the way she died was told in startling, shocking detail, yet never overdone - but this isn't what the book is about. It is about taking for granted what we have, assuming as we are all inclined to do that that which is in our gift is ours forever, and dealing with the fallout when something happens to make us realize that we are all connected to this life by a slender thread that can be broken at any moment. It moved me to tears, something that happens seldom.
Bravo Julie Myerson - and if you are indeed the queen of the Islington lit pack, self crowned or no, all I can say is, long may you reign!
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VINE VOICEon 2 April 2010
This was my first Julie Myerson book and I was really looking forward to reading it. Disappointment soon set in. Page 1 started well, but I was very quickly irritated by the lack of quotations marks around the dialogue. Why leave them off? It just makes a book so hard to read and I found it difficult to know when someone had stopped speaking and we were back in surrounding action or thoughts. It's not clever - it just makes the writer look as if they're trying to be clever/literary and failing.

I thought the story was okay, the study of grief quite interesting, but the emotional reality of the main character was unconvincing until the end. I didn't get any sense of her 'gorgeousness' and 'loveliness' and really couldn't grasp why all these men were falling over themselves for her. It also seemed odd that she had no women friends and interacted with hardly another female soul in the town except on a very slight, superficial, momentary level. But the one big question I have to ask is this - WHY do female characters have to be punished for transgressing? It happens in novels written by men (which doesn't make it acceptable) but I just expect better from women writers.

This was okay, and I'll probably read some of her other stuff, but I won't be rushing to find it.
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on 11 July 2004
I have read all of this book this morning, but I know the effect of it will last much longer. It's the pace and way she writes so convincingly about the awful effects of a violent death on the people left behind; the emotional confusion, shock, doubt, unanswered questions. It's as if nothing and no-one is certain any more. I desperately didn't want it to end the way it did, but that was because I cared enough about Tess and Mick not to want anything else awful to happen to them. The setting I recognised too; I know Southwold (which it more-or-less is) well and the whole atmosphere of a quiet Suffolk seaside town was very effectively depicted. The only aspect of it that didn't quite ring true was the role of Lacey, but I guess he - or someone - had to serve that purpose. And my only other problem with it, though hardly a criticism, is that it will leave a chilling feeling with me for at least the rest of today.
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on 25 March 2009
This novel begins promisingly and is a refreshing change. It is not a whodunnit, focusing instead on the friends and family of the deceased following the murder of Lennie, wife and mother of two, during the subsequent murder investigation. Tess, a close friend of the victim, is at the centre of the novel. Through her eyes and her relationships we see the damage that this does to her, to her family and friends and to the closeknit community that the author successfully creates. Where the novel falls down is during the last third where increasingly the novel loses focus as Tess is drawn into a love affair with a family liaison officer. This and the dramatic and unnecessary ending pull the reader away from the intimate family and their complex relationships to the novel's detriment. Although an absorbing read, this could have been more successful as a study of relationships under extreme stress and grief.
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