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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Set in a Sussex village over 10 days in 2000, this story has got far more to it than the blurb suggests. Although initially hard to get into and seemingly a bit disconnected, this cleverly plotted story with a wide range of characters becomes compelling as Nicholson skilfully weaves the various strands together. It's written in an episodic way, with each chapter dealing with a different strand of the story, then moving on to another strand, only to return to the first strand at a later point. In addition to Laura,(revisited by an old flame) and Henry who works in television, we also get to know a vicar who has lost his faith, a journalist still in the thrall of her ex-husband, an aspiring play-wright teacher, and others too, both old and young. An everyday story of country dwellers could so easily deteriorate into soap opera and it is entirely to Nicholson's credit that his novel rises gloriously above this and really conveys the yearning, the striving, the uncertainty, the disatisfaction and also the optimism with which we struggle through life. Nicholson gives the reader an insight into his characters motivation which the other characters can't see, and in doing so, shows us how little we really know about one another.
I thoroughly enjoyed this thought-provoking story and will certainly look out for more by Nicholson in the future. If you enjoy intelligent contemporary fiction, you really should give this a try.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 8 September 2009
William Nicholson is a skilled writer. With this book he takes a variety of ordinary people and invokes what it is like to be in their skin. The stories are so well delivered and so intense in their feeling that this book is a remarkable reading experience.

Laura has received a letter from her first love, Nick, with whom she spent ten months as a young woman in her second year at university. But he broke their relationship off - he wasn't ready for the next step at that time, leaving Laura desolate. But Laura moved on eventually, though her experience left its scars. Now he wants to come back into her life. But she has changed. She has married Henry, a TV director and writer, and they have a son and daughter, Jack and Carrie.

In many ways, Nick and Laura's story is the least interesting, and sometimes dissolves into romantic cliché, but there are lots of more rewarding characters living in the same village - Liz, who has a young daughter, Alice, and is still in sexual thrall to her ex-husband; Alan Strachan, Alice and Jack's young teacher who writes plays but can't get them staged; the village rector who finds that he no longer believes in God but whose humility and serene patience is perhaps more honest and useful than any religious certainty; The inner lives of these and other people are explored even down to young Jack, who is under the spell of an older, charismatic friend, Toby, and Alice, who is being bullied. The result is a captivating novel that allows you to feel some of these anxieties from the inside. The reader is swept up in the motivations that emerge and even the least sympathetic of them is rendered with compassion and - yes - intensity. This is one of those novels that you can, for a time, live in. I found myself reluctant to reach the last page.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
William Nicholson is a natural writer. His success as a screen writer and children's author has, perhaps, eclipsed his status as a "serious" novelist.

My first impression of this novel was that it was a middlebrow beach-read for, and about middle aged, middle class people, but I soon realised how wrong I was. Whilst Nicholson's novel is certaintly a good book to take on holiday, it is a far more serious and profound story than the jacket design would suggest. The novel's conclusion is both satisfying and deeply moving and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys Ian McEwan, Anne Tyler or Justin Cartwright.

What initially reads like a story about the mid-life crisis emerges as a far more weighty novel of ideas about that old chestnut: happiness. Nicholson's characters are generally comfortably off, but occupy that uncomfortable hinterland between mild discontent and misery, yearning for change, but also terrified of it. As a Hollywood screenwriter, William Nicholson could have easily gone for the obvious, but instead he has eschewed melodrama in favour of subtlety and economy.

All in all, a very satisfying novel.
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VINE VOICEon 13 January 2013
This book is much better than the synopsis would have you believe. It's much more than just a story about revisiting old loves and being tempted to contemplate another way of life and what might have been. Instead, Nicholson skilfully weaves a tale where the interconnections between the characters and their dilemmas work wonderfully well, and the coincidences actually work, even though they have been contrived for dramatic effect.

All the characters portrayed here come over as real people, people you are actually interested in reading about, which can be rare in this type of inward looking, angst-ridden storytelling. From the frustrated TV producer, the bored teacher, the lonely middle-aged woman, scared school children, angry farmer and deluded vicar, everyone here is trying to make sense of their place in the world and live a better, more rewarding life. As much a book about identity, sense of purpose and thwarted dreams, Nicholson combines these fairly universal dilemmas together in a really enjoyable and thought-provoking read.

If there is one small criticism to be made, it's that the middle-class, Sussex setting for a book about the chattering classes is unlikely to appeal to those who want their characters tackling more wordly matters, and some readers will think that the people written about here deserve the lives they lead. That said, it works better than so many other books that tackle ideas like this, and at times reminded me of an effective combination of the styles of Penelope Lively and Mark Haddon. Enjoyable and thoroughly recommended. The Kindle version translates to the e-book well, with no obvious typos or formatting errors to report. I'd certainly read another by this author.
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on 11 August 2010
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I was a bit disappointed to begin with when I first started reading, but it soon warmed up and then I really started enjoying it. At first I thought the book was just about Laura, a married woman who hears from an old lover from her student days, but the story spins out to other characters, although there seemed to be so many, I found it hard to keep up with who's who.

The author seems to get right into people's heads as he describes their day to day thoughts and feelings. For instance, a lot of us could identify with Henry, who feels guilty after a dangerous overtaking manoeuvre and tries to escape by accelerating away from the driver he overtook, who was forced to brake hard. There are the children too - little Alice, who's being bullied at school, and Jack, who desperately wants to be accepted into the gang. Alan is their young English teacher, who lives alone and dreams of being a writer but is trying to deal with the constant rejection letters, while his middle-aged neighbour, who is slightly unbalanced (and married), convinces herself Alan and she have something special going on between them.

It's all fascinating stuff, and reminds me that we are mostly fairly similar under the skin - we all have our worries, hurt feelings and insecurities, and sometimes forget that others have them too because they seem to sail through life without a care in the world. Thought provoking and overall a great read. Having read this, I would now definitely read another book by this author.
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I don't know how I missed The Secret Intensity of Everyday Life when it was published in 2009, but when it was followed over the next two or three years by a second and third book (All the Hopeful Lovers and The Golden Hour) the trilogy caught my attention.

When I eventually picked up this book this summer I found that I was staying up into the early hours to finish with its difficult marriages, unruly teens and assertive grand-parents who populate this beguiling saga of contemporary relationships.

The book is based in a fictional village near Lewes, the county town of East Sussex and anyone who knows the area will recognise the idyllic English setting inhabited by a mix of London commuters, local arts and crafts people, retired professionals and less well-off families struggling to survive in this prosperous land of Waitrose stores and private schools.

The book opens with a breakfast scene. Henry is a television director who is in the midst of fighting political battles over his latest project. The postman comes and Laura sees an envelope written in the unmistakeable hand-writing of Nick, a lover from years gone by, and postpones opening it until Henry has gone to catch a train. Will she respond to Nick's suggestion that they meet up to catch-up after a twenty year gap in their relationship?

Within a few pages we encounter other members of the cast - Liz who sits opposite Henry on the train (a single mother who seems unable to break from her manipulative ex-husband), Alan a teacher who has a private sexual routine perhaps unfitting for a teacher, Alan, a vicar who's pastoral concern for his congregation carries on despite his loss of faith and Marion, the unstable woman who dotes on him. The reader will interact with these and many other people over the next 384 pages (and a further two volumes if you care to).

Nicholson has the knack of getting behind the superficial events of his people's lives to describe motivation common to us all, and as I read this I recognised the struggles for personal integrity which underpin so many of our life-choices. Nicholson's people are above all "real", and as their underlying attitudes, anxieties and ambitions are laid before us, it is difficult not to identify with these characters and maybe to understand ourselves a little better.

I find that the mark of a good novel is when the people in the book live on and I experience a sense of loss when I turn the final page. Four months have passed since I read it and I still hanker after knowing what came next in the lives of this finely drawn cast who I became so involved with this summer.
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on 24 March 2013
As a novel, I found this quite good. I have to admit though, that it wasn't what I was expecting from William Nicholson. I LOVE him as an author and think he's written some amazing stuff. If you're expecting his usual quality of plotline, setting and character, you will be disappointed. However, I don't think he could write a bad novel if he tried. It took me a while to get into the story due to my preconceptions, but I did end up being interested in what happened and was glad for the lack of 'neat' ending.
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on 16 July 2010
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The cover promises a novel about what happens when a happily married woman hears from her long-lost lover. That's just one facet. Chapters follow a wide range of characters and their personal journeys.
I found it a tough read to begin with - while the language is easy, there seemed to be so many characters that I found it hard to keep track of who was who, and what was happening to them, until the second half. It's worth persevering. I found it fascinating how the novel shows how small, almost thoughtless, actions by one character cause something of a domino effect as they unwittingly have an amplified impact on the people they come into contact with. While it's sometimes difficult to follow, it's ultimately rewarding and thought provoking.
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on 11 January 2012
This is the first William Nicholson book I've read and I immediately ordered two more!The events take place over 6 days in a village in 2000,following the varied live of a married couple,a teacher,an old lady,a school boy and a disturbed middle aged woman.What I loved was the tenderness of the writing combined with excelent pacing.It was as if William Nicholson had managed to get right into the heads of a disparate group of people.It felt real;it felt true and best of all,it felt cheering.Why?because of the sheer resourcefulness of these people coping with their daily lives with spirit.
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on 19 April 2012
After reading "The Secret Intensity of Life", I was in awe of how one man can convey such depth of understanding about people and their lives. There is more philosophy in this novel than in a whole library of academic works on the subject. William Nicholson has astonishing insight into how both men and women feel and it was a pleasure and a privilege to read this book.

Please don't be put off by those reviewers who were left untouched by it. I feel rather sorry for them really. You certainly don't need to be living in a Sussex village to feel involved with the characters. In fact, isn't that sometimes one of the joys of reading: a glimpse into a different world?

Read it - a treat awaits you!
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