Ferney by James Long

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Ferney by James Long

Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: This is a wonderful historical-romantic variety pack rooted in the present whilst incorporating the past 2,000 years. That may sound odd, but reading is understanding so take the phone off the hook, make a cuppa and prepare to become absorbed and enveloped.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 416 Date: August 2012
Publisher: Quercus
ISBN: 978-1780878553

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History lecturer Michael Martin thought that the chance of love and marriage had passed him by. Then Gally, a history nut and lecture gate crasher, attended one of his lectures and dared to contradict him. Contradiction led to courtship and the marriage that had previously seemed so elusive but despite their love and accompanying emotional security, Gally has a dark subconscious that haunts her. She's unsettled by repeating nightmares and, worse, night terrors that can't be explained by counsellors' logic. However when Mike and Gally find their (or rather, Gally's) ideal home in the shape of a derelict cottage in the Somerset village of Penselwood, Gally's nightmares are augmented by a strong feeling of déjà vu. Meanwhile the Martins seem to have developed a benevolent stalker in the shape of aged local Ferney Miller. Mike considers him a bit of a pain while for Gally he represents something else entirely; something that she can't explain nor understand but will become a threat to her marital happiness and Michael's peace of mind.

Once upon a time, back in the world of 1997, author James Long wrote and published Ferney and then got on with his life. However, over the years complaints and disquiet reached his ears. Potential readers were having problems locating the novel as it had gone out of print and there were rumours of some booksellers charging a fortune for used copies. Under the circumstances there was only one thing to do, so he did it: it's being republished. Is it therefore worth the hype and hassle? Most definitely!

I say that now, but before reading it I approached with caution. The book blurb states that it's better than one of my favourite books, The Time Traveler's Wife, which I love (despite the plot holes). Having read James Long's book, I am now more than willing to admit that Ferney is every bit as enchanting, only different and better written. It may be linear as opposed to the 'jumpy' (cleverly written) time slips in TTTW and as opposed to the back and forth movements of Cross Stitch's method of time travel but it's a beautifully written confection. Through ways and reasoning I won't reveal, we get the opportunity to bite into moments from the past two thousand years. Saxon England, life under the Normans, immigration from Napoleonic France, early 20th century murder, mayhem, horses and their contribution to human procreation (yes, really!) are all here, coated with an unsoppy, very human love story.

At first you may think that you see plot gaps or ideas that don't follow the book's own logic, but these are explained later. Meanwhile you slowly become acquainted with Ferney and Gally who for various reasons have a different take on history from the rest of us. The author's aim is to sweep us along in the love story so that we identify with Gally and the way that she becomes emotionally torn as she realises the reasons she and Mike have moved to the village. I began by liking her but by the end of the book I was totally on the side of poor Mike. (Also someone needs to tell that girl the stomach isn't in the intestines.) That's not a complaint though; this is a book that ensures that sides are picked and emotions are fully engaged as part of its charm.

The language is mellifluously descriptive, sometimes humorously, sometimes beautifully but always conjuring the right mind's eye image without becoming worthily-wordy-but-unintelligible. As an example, imagine an English gentleman gone wild or The old man's stock of memories had long ago overflowed into dungeons and his expeditions to retrieve them needed careful planning.

There's so much more I'd love to discuss but it would give too much away and this is the sort of treat that's spoilt if the flavour guide is left in the box. The good news is that it's not fattening and, for those who want seconds, the sequel, The Lives She Left Behind, is in the air.

I would like to thank Quercus for providing Bookbag with a copy of this book for review.

If you've enjoyed this, then try The Time Traveler's Wife or Cross Stitch. Both are a bit marmite but I loved them both whilst accepting that the next Diana Gabaldon book is better than the first.

Buy Ferney by James Long at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Ferney by James Long at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Ferney by James Long at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Ferney by James Long at Amazon.com.


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