The Saving Graces by Patricia Gaffney

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The Saving Graces by Patricia Gaffney

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Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Fairhead
Reviewed by Sue Fairhead
Summary: Four close friends support each other through divorce, childlessness, breast cancer, and other problems that strike. A very moving novel.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 432 Date: January 2004
Publisher: Pocket Books
ISBN: 978-0743468275

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This is the story of four women in the USA: Isabel, Lee, Emma and Rudy, who have been close friends for some years. They meet regularly in a group which they call 'The Saving Graces', for a reason that's explained early in the book.

I have to admit I got a bit confused at first; not that it takes a lot to confuse me. The first chapter is narrated by Emma, who is a journalist. She explains a bit about the group, and also about each of the other members. Then the second chapter is narrated by Lee - this is what confused me, since I didn't realise the narrator had changed until she started talking about Emma.

It turns out that this is the way the whole book is written, with all four of the 'Graces' narrating a chapter in turn, all in the first person. I love the idea of using four narrators, since it gives different perspectives on so many situations. The only slight problem was that the narrative voices were remarkably similar, so that I often forgot who was supposed to be writing until I looked for the name at the top of each page.

I found myself drawn into the storyline quite strongly by the time I was around half way through. Each of the four women has problems which surface during the telling of the story: Isabel has a broken marriage and is recovering from a breast cancer operation; Lee has a wonderful husband, but is unable to conceive the child they both want; Emma is in love with a married man; Rudy, who had an appalling childhood, is married to a very controlling husband, although she doesn't seem to realise how manipulative he is.

Moreover, their characters are very different: Isabel is quiet and observant, into New Age healing and healthy eating; Lee is organised and practical; Emma's something of a free spirit; Rudy is stressed and desperate to please. Yet they have a strong bond of friendship despite their differences, and although they bicker occasionally, they give all they can to help each other when serious crises occur.

Some of the book is light-hearted, some of it is serious and evidently well-researched. Towards the end, there were parts that were very moving, and I admit to a few tears in my eyes a couple of times. The conclusion of the book was encouraging and hopeful, after a highly emotive scene that almost pushed itself into the limits of schmaltzy sentimentality - but not quite. The author managed to stay just the right side of the line, in my view. I thought I might cringe, but I'm glad to say that I didn't.

It's women's fiction, of course. It's not going to appeal to most men, or to anyone who likes fast action or a lot of plot. This is a book of intertwining sub-plots that work well together, but the overall theme is, basically, two years in the lives of the four women. A lot of their conversation is light-hearted, some of it is complaining, some of it is fairly intimate revelations. Anyone who isn't interested in women's lives and discussion would probably find this book rather dull.

Grab a box of tissues if you're easily moved to tears by emotive novels, and make sure you have plenty of time to finish this book, as it's almost impossible to put down. Ideal for holiday reading.

If you like this, you'll probably also like Uphill All the Way by Sue Moorcroft, or Blue Slipper Bay by Wendy Harris.

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Buy The Saving Graces by Patricia Gaffney at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Saving Graces by Patricia Gaffney at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Saving Graces by Patricia Gaffney at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Saving Graces by Patricia Gaffney at


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