East Fortune by James Runcie

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East Fortune by James Runcie

Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A story of life and love and families - and how we survive. Characters which stay with you and economical writing. Definitely recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 256 Date: April 2009
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing plc
ISBN: 978-0747597032

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There are three Henderson brothers. Jack's life is empty. His wife has left him and the children have moved on. It's only when a stranger steps out in front of his car and Jack has no chance to avoid the tragedy that his life changes in ways that he could never have expected. Douglas, on the other hand, has a life that's rather too full. Despite having a good marriage he risks all in pursuit of a woman he barely knows. Angus has a good marriage too, and a reliable car, good house and a career. At fifty four he's made redundant and no longer knows how to define himself. In the summer they all head for the family home in East Fortune, to the sibling rivalry which never dies, no matter how old you are and to the weight of parental expectation.

It's a book about survival – how we survive as individuals, as families, after the onset of middle age. It's then that the problems are so often self-inflicted – the unwise relationships, the divorce after a lengthy marriage or unexpected, like the loss of a job when you were thinking that the next change would be retirement. It's when the death of a parent brings with it the knowledge that you are next in line, despite the thought that you still feel relatively young, that you still have something to give. Runcie captures this sense of lives at the crossroads with sharpness and humanity.

I did wonder if I would warm to the brothers. Three middle-aged men, seemingly with more frailties than strengths seemed to have little to offer, but gradually they crept under my skin. Jack's friendship with a Polish girl not much older than his own daughters looked as though it could only cause problems, but there was an inevitability about it, a sense that Jack, given the man that he is, could have done little else. There's the same sense with Douglas, the television producer who hasn't quite made it to the big time, prepared to lose everything in the grip of an obsession. But it's Angus who pulled at my heart strings with his attempts to hide the loss of his job from his mother who has enough to worry about.

The men dominate the book but the women are still superb. Krystyna, with her sense of not quite belonging either in Edinburgh or in her native Poland, permeates the book. Her absence is more telling than her presence; the reason they know each other is perhaps the fact that should keep them apart. Even the bit players come off the page fully formed – Runcie uses few words to build Julia but her attitude to the hapless Douglas is akin to the predatory male.

It's this economy of words which left me with my only slight feeling of dissatisfaction with the book. I wanted more. It wasn't the need to have all the ends tied up, but rather that having got to know the brothers I wanted to stay in their company.

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

If this book appeals to you then we think that you might also enjoy A Very Persistent Illusion by L C Tyler.

Buy East Fortune by James Runcie at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy East Fortune by James Runcie at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy East Fortune by James Runcie at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy East Fortune by James Runcie at Amazon.com.


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