The Affairs of Others by Amy Grace Loyd
|The Affairs of Others by Amy Grace Loyd|
|Category: Literary Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: A story of adult relationships, the tunnel of loss and the ultimate emergence at the other end. An intense read; in places poetically beautiful while in others laying bare the damage life is capable of inflicting.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 240||Date: January 2014|
Five years ago Celia Cassill's husband died leaving her the owner of the Brooklyn apartment block in which she lives. She's fastidious as to whom she lets and is understandably hesitant when George (one of her longstanding tenants) wants to temporarily sub-let to a friend while he goes abroad. Celia eventually agrees and so in moves Hope, a lady who has just left her husband and for whom life is as complicated as she makes Celia's.
Amy Grace Loyd has had an interesting writing career which includes editing fiction for Playboy. Although this heritage is evident in this novel in all its frankness, don't let it put you off as it doesn't show in the way that you'd think. Any echo of Amy's past magazine alliance is used sensitively with a purpose, but more of that later.
The story is a first-person-Celia narrative as the young landlady takes us from the present to the past and back again. Celia would have us believe that, since her beloved husband died, she's become an emotional island. However, as the novel progresses we begin to realise that she involves herself with her tenants out of a greater concern and curiosity than is professionally necessary, despite this professionalism remaining her excuse.
This is a novel lightly seasoned with poetic moments and subtle nuances (like the one-line oblique reference to 9/11 when mentioning a businessman's suit for instance) alluding to loss and the lost. This theme appears in many forms, via loss of a relationship, loss of self-identity in an all-excluding numbness or, in one case, becoming physically lost. Then there's also the sex, as I alluded earlier. However this isn't a reason to panic or slam the book shut - it's used in very interesting way.
There is indeed a fair amount of it, including BDSM but, while you may have a hard time explaining it to younger offspring, none of it is gratuitous. In fact the BDSM is used as a negative symptom of the female participator's condition and fragility rather than an enticing activity. In this created world true affection, fulfilment and enjoyment are portrayed via gentle and sensual coupling rather than anything producing physical discomfort.
I found myself smiling at Amy's occasional wry turn of phrase, especially when Celia shares the way in which her mother remembers her late father's final drink. Having said that, the novel isn't designed to be a bundle of laughs although I didn't find it depressing and the 4* rating is only a reflection of a slight over-meandering in a couple of places. (Yet not enough to stop me wondering where Amy was taking us and being suitably uplifted when we arrived at our final destination.)
In showing us Celia and her neighbours, Amy has written an exploration of intertwining psyches, personalities and lives that wander through our imaginations to provide an honest insight, as thought-provoking as it is lyrical. Ultimately it's about Hope and, indeed, hope.
Thank you, W&N for providing us with a copy for review.
Further Reading: If this appeals then we recommend Speaking of Love by Angela Young, another beautifully told story of relationships and the ravages life piles on them.
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You can read more book reviews or buy The Affairs of Others by Amy Grace Loyd at Amazon.com.
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