Ghosting by Jonathan Kemp
|Ghosting by Jonathan Kemp|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Luke Marlowe|
|Summary: Ghosting' is a captivating and moving look at grief, lost loves, and life over 60. A heartbreaking page turner, my only problem with this book was that it wasn't longer...|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 189||Date: March 2015|
|Publisher: Myriad Press|
Grace Wellbeck is 64 - living on a canal boat in London with her second husband, she lives a relatively settled life of routine. A chance encounter with a man in the street changes everything though - a man who is the spitting image of her first, deceased husband. Is he a ghost? Is Grace going mad?
As she recalls the dramatic and torrid events of her first marriage, and the devastating loss of a child, Grace becomes swept into the life of two young artists, and the passions she finds there lead her into making a huge decision...
Jonathan Kemp received great acclaim for his first novel, London Triptych, a novel that told the stories of three gay men in different time periods. It was an enjoyable and emotional read, but Kemp has really found his feet with Ghosting, to the extent that I was unable to stop thinking about this book and its characters for days afterwards.
Firstly, Grace is an incredibly vivid character - drawn well and with truth - novels about people post retirement age seem to be all the rage of late, but most focus on them as twinkly eyed kindly beings, who seem harmless and neutured in their old age. Grace is a character who has vivid emotions, makes mistakes, has sexual feelings, lashes out at those around her, and sometimes drinks too much - she is flawed, yes - but real and empathatic. She is so vivid, in fact, that I could picture her perfectly as I read - the description of her, combined with the silhouette on the cover, reminded me somewhat of Charlotte Rampling. The other characters are all rounded and wonderfully drawn too - from Grace's devoted yet slightly desperate second husband, to her passionate but abusive first, through to beautiful, unpredictable Luke and besotted artist Linden.
Grace goes on a journey - through different age groups, different cultures, and both her past and her future. Thanks to what a great character she is, and also thanks to the wonderful, skilful and tender writing of Jonathan Kemp, it is a complete pleasure for the reader to accompany her. I began to read this book in the bath, and finished it over an hour later - cold, prune like, and genuinely sad to have to put down such a wonderful novel.
The art world she enters is a fascinating one - Luke's performance seems both beautiful and painful, and is wonderfully represented in part on the cover art. The artists, their culture, and their genuinely open and accepting dispositions allow Grace to open up and, for maybe the first time, to accept both herself and her demons. There is no neat bow at the end of this though - we leave Grace at the start of a new chapter in her life, and I really wish we'd seen what she chose to do with it.
In fact, my only real gripe is that I wished there had been more of it - I appreciate that this novel ends exactly where it should, both in terms of length, and also in terms of Grace's story, but my liking for these vivid, human and real characters was that, rather selfishly, I wish there had been more.
Many thanks to the publishers for the copy.
My choice for further reading may seem incredibly far from the setting of Ghosting, and goes to very different places, but, Restless by William Boyd also explores an older woman, with problems and secrets, and explores her past in depth. In addition, both had me utterly hooked from start to end.
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