Thursday 4 June 2015

Review ~ If You Go Away by Adele Parks

4 June 2015

Can he love her more than he hates war?

Vivian Foster's hurriedly put together wedding day coincides with the outbreak of the First World War. Neither of these momentous events, in Vivian's mind, are happy and yet, even as her circumstances change forever, you can't help but wonder what life will hold for this unhappy young woman. Trapped by necessity into an ill-matched and loveless marriage, Vivian, at first appears to be vague and vacuous. However, as time progresses, we see a distinct change in her outlook, and as the balance of her life shifts and alters ,so the horror of living during wartime starts to have a profound effect.

Aubrey Owens, whilst married to Vivian, is not the man of Vivian's dreams , not does it appear that Vivian is the woman of his wildest desires. However, the war, untimely as it appears, offers an element of escape for both of them and for Aubrey it's also a chance for him to succeed by his own merits.

Howard Henderson is a talented young playwright who has no stomach for war. During some unofficial time at the front line, both the horror and trauma he witnessed on the WW1 battlefields have left such a devastating impression on him that rather than enlist, Howard's chooses to become a conscientious objector.

On the surface, Vivian, Aubrey and Howard's lives should never have intertwined, and yet, war makes strange bedfellows, and what then follows is a poignant and sympathetically drawn story, which tells of the danger of indifference, the power of overwhelming sexual attraction and of the added danger of an illicit love affair.

The book gets off to a slow start. At first, I wasn't altogether sure that I even liked Vivian. She seemed flighty and inconsequential but once the story moves to the picturesque village of Blackwell, Vivian's personality starts to shine through and I began to feel more at ease in her company. Aubrey, at first, appears of little consequence, and yet his presence tends to dominate the narrative and I grew to have enormous sympathy for him. I found Howard to be a strange enigma, sure, he was a man of conscience, but there was also something about his character, particularly in the early part of the story,  which, at times, left me feeling quite unsure of him.

I loved the way the book gave both Vivian's and Howard's perspective, and the well divided sections gave a good impression of how time moved on. The consequence of war is well thought out and the stark description of life in the trenches is made all the more poignant by the loss of so many brave young men, juxtaposed against the day to day account of everyday life in a country village.The last two hundred or so pages are real page turners and by far, for me, contain some of the best writing in the book.

Historical fiction seems to be quite a departure for novelist, Adele Parks, whose more contemporary style of chick-lit romance is altogether lighter. I have enjoyed her chick lit books enormously but I am altogether more impressed with this new style of writing. This historical fiction is stronger and more compelling and certainly holds my attention. I look forward to seeing what this talented author does next.

 My thanks to Georgina Moore at for my advance reading copy of this book.


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