April and Oliver by Tess Callahan

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April and Oliver by Tess Callahan

Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: Turbulent and traumatic, but a totally gripping read.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 336 Date: May 2010
Publisher: Windmill Books
ISBN: 978-0099537526

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After spending their childhoods together, April and Oliver haven't seen each other for many years. It is only after the death of April's little brother that they find their lives overlapping again. April is reckless, damaged, and struggling from one day to the next whereas Oliver is mature and sensible. He is now a law student, engaged to the sweet, gentle Bernadette who is the antithesis of April. Seeing April's life in tatters, Oliver tries to rescue her from herself, yet the more entangled he becomes the more his own seemingly perfect life starts to fall apart.

I loved this book. It was one of those wonderful, engrossing reads. I finished it late at night, reading on and on because I absolutely could not put the book down to sleep without having found out what would happen. I actually felt a pang of despair when I turned the last page and there was only half a side of writing left to read - it didn't seem possible that the resolution I wanted could possibly fit into so few words.

I should probably proffer the warning that this isn't a cheerful book. It's actually quite traumatic reading, and even after I'd finished reading it I lay awake for a long time with my brain on overdrive, thinking the whole story through. But sometimes that can be just the right sort of book to read, one that whirls your emotions, making you think. But if you're looking for a comfort story, a happy little tale to read on the beach, then this definitely isn't it!

The story, although it has some lighter moments, is really quite dark. It deals with family secrets and lies, grief, abuse, love and obsession. I didn't particularly like April, or Oliver actually, but I still felt completely invested in their stories and eager to see what happened. The magnetic attraction between April and Oliver is well portrayed, the way they utterly understand each other and are almost able to communicate entirely through glances, yet at the same time they are barely able to speak in person without sniping at each other and their lapses into aching, painful silences rang true. The growing tension between them both adds to the drama that builds through the story. I particularly enjoyed the book because I couldn't predict what would happen, constantly feeling like the author was holding me on a knife edge over the outcome.

I had a couple of little issues with some aspects of the story, the idea that April 'invites' the abuse she receives, the fleshing out of T.J. as a character which, for me, didn't quite work. This didn't really interfere in my enjoyment of the story however. The only thing that really annoyed me was that Oliver seemed to constantly run his hand through his hair! April is being annoying? He runs his hand through his hair. He learns something about his family's history? He runs his hand through his hair! It probably started as a particular trait for the character, but it soon just felt like lazy writing to me. Which is a shame because I really thought the rest of the book was an excellent debut novel, moving and gripping. I'd definitely recommend it, as long as you're feeling fairly stable and happy yourself!

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

Another moving story that I couldn't put down is Maggie O'Farrell's After You'd Gone.

Buy April and Oliver by Tess Callahan at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy April and Oliver by Tess Callahan at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy April and Oliver by Tess Callahan at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy April and Oliver by Tess Callahan at Amazon.com.


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