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3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Format: Paperback|Change

on 3 March 2017
I throughly enjoyed this book . I am very glad I did not read any of the negative reviewws here, as I may not have bought this lovely book
for my beach reading. Very well written.
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on 16 September 2012
Bookish, sensitive schoolgirl Cecilia Bannen becomes infatuated with her tall, floppy-haired English master James Dahl at 'free-thinking' Haye House school in mid-to-late 80's rural Devon. Twist - her mother, Dora, (who teaches music at the school) becomes equally (and implausibly) obsessed with Dahl's wife, frosty, straight-talking, 'dark-eyed' Elisabeth (also a Haye House teacher). Novel cuts between burgeoning 'secret' love affairs of mother and daughter, and present day when Cecilia, now married, a children's novelist ( yawn), and mother of three, returns to draughty, ramshackle, Wind Tor, the house she lived in as a child, to look after Dora, now ill with cancer: inadvertently, she also revisits old passions.
Plenty of ITV-drama-friendly stuff in there already, but just to nail the deal, Briscoe also throws in a 'Lost Baby' plot as well.
Don't bother with the book if you're after anything original - the characters and use of the setting ('this strange, wild place') are all too familiar. The story is one-note since both central characters are dealing with the same emotions. The writing is patchy, including probably the gristliest sentence I've read this year - 'It was all too easy to regress, to become irritated and sulky yet self-sacrificing in Dora's presence, using abnegation as a passive weapon in the face of Dora's intractability.' That'll stick in your teeth alright. Characters continually 'colour' and 'flush', 'stiffen' and 'soften' and 'swallow'; hearts 'speed' and 'plunge'; lips are always being 'pressed together', eyes habitually 'shine with moisture' and there are many sentences that sound poetic but are actually meaningless: 'The raw air caught her breath.' Eh? 'Katya was there...her hair with its green tinge from the water's copper drifting about her small solid body.' You wot? 'His narrowness defined by the blackness of his eyebrows.' Come again? 'She put her arm around Romy's shoulder and swiftly murmured reassurances to her as she ran along the passage to Izzie's room.' Mutually exclusive actions, surely? A character throws leaves at a window to alert someone inside...leaves tend not to go where you throw them and what kind of noise would they make anyway? You can see the book's 'reveal' a mile off and Izzie, Cecilia's adopted, 'indie' daughter shows Briscoe's tin ear for the way young people speak...it's all 'babe' and 'lush' and 'Chill, Mum!'.There's a pointless piece of melodrama involving Ruth, Cecilia's youngest daughter, towards the end of the book.
But there are also good insights into the dangers and terrors of love, the unreasonableness of emotions, the pull of the past, and nice writing about ageing, responsibility and the beauty of wild landscapes.
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on 6 July 2017
I love this book, one of my favourites. Briscoe is so beautiful with her selection of words and the way she described the whole surrounding environment and managing to migrate the characters with the environment was magical. Brilliant. About my 4th time reading this.
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on 3 July 2011
Joanna Briscoe is a superb writer, and this is her best book yet. A haunting, seductive story, about a mother searching for a baby she was forced to give up, it grabs you and holds you under, breathless for the outcome.

The people, the place, the hippy school where teachers called Idris and Kasha encourage the love-children of fading rock stars and cash- strapped hippies with the right connections to follow their fancy in jazz dance and naked swimming, the subsuming obsession of an adolescent girl's crush on her English teacher, and the same woman's anger and compassion for her young self twenty years later - all are described with such truth and originality that there comes a point where you simply forgot you are reading at all. You are living in this book.

This is one of those agonising books that you can't put down but don't want to finish. Exquisite torture.
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on 9 July 2011
Joanna Briscoe's haunting book is all about the pain of loss and longing. Both Dora and her daughter Celie spend their adult lives yearning for someone who is absent, or not fully available. Haunted by loss, the real people in their real lives fail to get their full attention; and in Celie's daughter Ruth, we see this psychological pattern repeating in a third generation. Ruth, unable to fully feel her mother's devotion, turns to a fantasy world, with almost disastrous consequences.
Dora realises she did the wrong things "by attaching myself to someone who cannot be pinned down."
This novel is beautifully and subtly written, haunting and mysterious to the last pages, when it all falls into place in an ending you'd never guess (however hard I tried...) but makes perfect sense.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 3 December 2011
I enjoyed this book but do feel that it perhaps tries to cram too many plot-lines in for it to become a five star read. The `past' story of Cecilia's obsessive teenage passion for her English teacher, Mr Dahl, is done excellently: the fevered, neurotic, all-encompassing desires of teenage girls is conveyed brilliantly and reminded me very much of my own schooldays.

Offsetting that, however, is the long drawn out tale of Cecilia's mother's own rather improbable passion for Mr Dahl's wife.

There is much that I enjoyed about this book and Briscoe has a deliciously light and satirical touch when describing the rather awful `progressive' school that studious Cecilia is sent to, and the `hippy commune' atmosphere of her home life.
So this is a mixed book for me: the `present' story, particularly, feels like there are too many stories pushed in which perhaps don't get the space to breathe as much as they should. This is overcome, however, but some excellent emotional writing, and the compelling, utterly gripping schoolgirl affair at its heart.
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on 8 September 2011
I have just finished this, with a lump in my throat. I wanted it to end because I wanted to know what happened, but I didn't want it to end because it was so gripping! I was hooked from the get-go. The author's done an amazing job of weaving together past and present through her main characters, Cecilia and Dora, and their respective obsessions, all set against the backdrop of Dartmoor. I got completely swept up in Cecilia's obsession with Mr Dahl and couldn't turn the pages fast enough to find out what happened next.

Going beyond the gripping and complicated relationships and passions that come to light, I particularly loved the descriptions of the moors, Dora & Patrick/Cecila and Ari's house and Haye House school (which brought to mind My Life in Orange by Tim Guest - worth a read if you're into finding out more about experimental schools/idealistic commune living) and the strong sense of place evoked in this riveting novel.

I bought this off the strength of a previous Amazon review and wasn't disappointed.
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on 19 July 2013
This is the sort of book that you want to know the outcome, but you're not desperate to know. It plodded along telling the tale of a family living on the wild moors, alternately an incident in the past then fast forwarding to the present day. None of the characters were particularly gripping, a thing they had in common with the plot. It wouldn't be fair to give any broad hints here as to that plot, thus spoiling it for anyone intending to read it, but suffice to say it's about a teacher, a teenager, and a strange family set up. It all leads to a lost love, in more ways than one.

I found it a bit pedestrian and more than once blurted out "For goodness sake, tell her" (you'll know why if you read it) as I felt the pace needed geeing up somewhat, but as I say I persevered to the conclusion. It turned out rather predictable in the end and bordering on the ridiculous, so I don't think I'll be bothering with this author again. Not enough happened, and that that did was a bit of a damp squib.
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on 30 November 2014
YOU obsesses with obsession. It asks questions about what happens to the residue of relationships where one half has died, betrayed, fled or forgotten the other. Cecilia's obsessive adolescent tangle with James Dahl, her English teacher at the progressive Haye House in moorland Devon, demonstrates Briscoe's costive style. Ducks and drakes: skim a stone, see how often it flicks, bounces and ripples...but never let it sink! It's fine to have Dahl asking, on discovering he is the father of Cecilia's illegitimate child, 'Why didn't you tell me?' but why let it ripple and ride through so many cloying repetitions and permutations? Stones don't skim on stagnant water. The trials of angry, biteback affairs and nipple-nibbling encounters in rocky streams are overdrawn in suffocating detail. Despite some sparkling prose effects, Orwell's COMING UP FOR AIR will be my next brisk little read.
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on 27 June 2011
If you loved Joanna Briscoe's previous novel, Sleep With Me, as much as I did, you'll find lots to admire and enjoy in her latest, You. You is set in the countryside, in contrast to the very metropolitan Sleep With Me, but it excites in many of the same ways: with stunning prose, brilliant observation, high passion and some shocking twists in the plot.
The narrative offers the parallel stories of Cecilia and her mother, Dora, as each negotiates life raising children in the country. It begins when Cecilia returns to live in her childhood home and as the story unfolds in these two different dimensions of time, we see how the sometimes shocking events of the past - and particularly Cecilia's passion for her charismatic teacher, Mr Dahl - must inevitably come back to claim her.
The author evokes a brilliant sense of period in the flashback scenes, and a strong sense of place throughout. But it is the story that drives this book, and the tension builds as you turn the pages.
Treat yourself to this book.
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