Before We Say Goodbye by Louise Candlish

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Before We Say Goodbye by Louise Candlish

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Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Fairhead
Reviewed by Sue Fairhead
Summary: An emotive story of discovery and growth for a confused woman, in the aftermath of her mother's death.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 416 Date: August 2009
Publisher: Sphere
ISBN: 978-0751540383

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Olivia suffered a great deal in her childhood and teenage years. Her mother Maggie would disappear, often for months at a time, leaving Olivia and her brother disorientated, upset and - eventually - very angry. But when her mother lies dying, there's a big question Olivia wants to ask. Did her mother deliberately keep her away from Richie, the young man she fell in love with when she was sixteen?

It's a question that has been haunting her for more than twenty years. Olivia is now married to Russell, and they have two teenage sons. She sometimes feels like a spare part in the family, now her sons are growing up, but for months her time has been taken up with visiting her terminally ill mother.

Then Maggie dies. And Olivia receives a strange letter, which sets her off on a journey of discovery. Initially a weekend away, it turns into a week, and then more than a month before she is finally able to reconcile her past with her present.

The writing is very good - emotive but not overly so, well-paced, and believable. There are switches of viewpoint from Olivia to Russell, so we get to know him too; there are also chapters which re-visit Olivia's teenage years and gradually build up the story of her passionate love affair with Richie. Sometimes I was momentarily confused as I started a new chapter, wondering where I was, particularly if I picked the book up in the evening. But there were plenty of contextual clues. I liked the way Olivia's past and present started to converge in my mind as she slowly came to terms with some of her pain, and began living in the present again.

I felt I knew Olivia quite well by the time the book ended, and was particularly fond of Wren, a five-year-old girl whom she got to know well. I was a little disappointed that her relationship with her sons was barely touched upon, however; there was a fair amount of description of their childhood, and decisions about their schooling, but very little about the way they interacted as a family. Since Wren was so much more sympathetic, I wondered if the author has daughters rather than sons!

All in all, I thought it a most enjoyable book. I didn't feel the need to drop everything and read right to the end, but that's not a bad thing. It's character-driven primarily, with the plot revolving around Olivia and her various relationships, but one or two more serious issues are touched upon. It would probably appeal to women of all ages who enjoy family novels.

Many thanks to the publishers for sending this book. We also have a review of The Swimming Pool by Louise Candlish.

If you enjoyed this, you might well also enjoy Pandora's Box by Giselle Green or Uphill All the Way by Sue Moorcroft.

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Buy Before We Say Goodbye by Louise Candlish at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Before We Say Goodbye by Louise Candlish at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Before We Say Goodbye by Louise Candlish at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Before We Say Goodbye by Louise Candlish at


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