The Love of My Life by Louise Douglas

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The Love of My Life by Louise Douglas

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Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A love story that begins with the end and an affair which can only lead to disaster make a compelling story with some excellent female characters. Though-provoking and original, it's highly recommended by The Bookbag.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: February 2008
Publisher: Macmillan
ISBN: 978-0230532076

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It's a love story, but a love story that begins with the end, when Luca Felicone, husband of Olivia, is killed in a car crash. They met as teenagers when Olivia, difficult child of a dysfunctional family, worked in Marinella's, the Felicone family restaurant. They were drawn to each other but Luca's mother never thought well of Olivia and she already had a wife in mind for her son.

Devastated by Luca's death, Olivia decides to leave London and return to Watersford where Luca is buried. She is, at least, as close to him as she can be. Her home looks across at the cemetery and she regularly visits his grave. There seems to be little left for her until she becomes involved with Marc, Luca's married twin, who is suffering a loss similar to her own. Knowing that it's wrong, knowing that no good can come of it, they begin an affair.

This is Louise Douglas' first novel and she has achieved something very accomplished. Olivia tells the story of her affair with Marc – an affair borne, on her side at least, out of grief and despair – but intercut with this is the real love affair, that of Luca and Olivia. It would be easy for the plot lines to become confused, but this never happens. Even knowing how it all ends, knowing that the affair between Marc and Olivia can only end in further disaster, the story is still a compelling page-turner.

In many ways this is down to the character of Olivia. I didn't like her, but I could empathise with her. Although she did much that I couldn't agree with, couldn't believe on occasions, I could understand every action. It was plausible and implausible at the same time; a wonderful, heady mix of a life lived right on the edge of giddy, all-consuming love – and of devastation. I didn't like her, but I wanted something to go right for her.

Luca is a shadowy presence throughout the story, vivid and ghostly at the same time, but for me the most compelling character was Angela Felicone, the mother of the family. She's always perfectly presented, runs the restaurant with a firm hand and a gimlet eye and is fierce in her love of her extended family. She's the Italian matriarch transplanted to a northern seaside town. Louise Douglas' female characters are better than the males – they have the subtle nuances whereas the men are more black and white – but that's a very minor point in an otherwise excellent book. It's a book to enjoy, to mull over and to reread.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If you enjoyed this book then you'll almost certainly like After You'd Gone by Maggie O'Farrell.

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Chloe said:

I've just finished this book and thought it was a beautiful read, with very well written characters. It was an enjoyable read despite the sad storyline. Lovely review too.


Marion Laurence said:

I found this book incredibly moving, and it is one that will remain in my thoughts for a very long time.

As already said in the review, I wasn't too keen on Olivia either - some of her decisions were very wrong - and she caused a lot of unhappiness to people. However, this book is so well written, I was hanging on every word, to see what she was up to next. It is full of characters that are so well described, and throughout there is this lingering sadness.

Loved it - and didn't want it to end. An excellent debut.