Lay Me Down by Nicci Cloke

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Lay Me Down by Nicci Cloke

Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Kerry King
Reviewed by Kerry King
Summary: A New Year's Eve party brings loner, Jack and lively, beautiful Elsa together with a kiss at midnight. The kiss becomes more... much more; and as they board a plane just eight months later to begin a new life in San Francisco, Elsa thinks they have a real shot at something other than boy-meets-girl. But as Jack becomes increasingly preoccupied with the less appealing aspects of his job on the Golden Gate Bridge, Elsa begins to feel isolated and both find themselves dwelling on a past they thought they had each safely buried.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 448 pages Date: February 2015
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 978-0099593652

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It's New Year's Eve and the nightclub is pulsating with sound. The revellers heave and swell in oceanic waves and Jack is preparing to call it a night, when he is presented with Elsa. She is small; delicate and pretty and alluringly confident - a heady combination for a man like Jack - and though he wants, with every fibre of his being, to walk away, to go home and forget her, he doesn't.

Eight months later and filled to the brim with endless possibilities about the future, they board a flight together to San Francisco. Jack has landed his dream job as an ironworker on the Golden Gate Bridge and Elsa, eager to explore a future career as an artist, has secured a six month tourist visa. With a house awaiting them - by way of a recent bequest, in a part of town that is trending upward - the lovebirds are excited for the future.

Now, Jack may have won highly prized job on the Golden Gate, but it does come with an extraordinary caveat… nobody tells him about the men and women intent on leaping to their deaths or the frequency with which they will want to do it. Not all succeed. Part of Jack’s duties as a bridge worker are to be on call for potential suicide situations, but the 'jumpers', as they are called, begin to haunt Jack and one in particular brings back memories that he thought he had dealt with.

Understandably, Jack becomes consumed by his obligation to these men and women and his relationship with Elsa begins to suffer as a result. With every backward step Jack takes from her into his own past, Elsa retreats further into hers.

When did they stop talking? When did they stop being wrapped in the anticipation of their own potential and fall flat in the face of the realisation that past memories will follow you no matter wherever or how far you go? What do you do when the past won’t let you go?

Reading the blurb on Amazon for Lay Me Down, I knew I had to have it. I don’t know a single person who has not, at one time or another, been in a relationship that became complicated or that did not live up to expectations – whether that relationship broke your heart or you did the heart-breaking. It’s part of life, non?

What gripped me in particular, within just a few short pages of this novel, was the knowledge – and I knew, I just knew – that we were being given the surface personas of Jack and Elsa by the author, because she hoped that we might want to find out more about them. I quite desperately wanted to know what made them tick and why they are who they are. I was hooked by page 17.

There is more than a smidge of relatability to both characters. I think we’ve all been Elsa – wanting a clean slate; to start afresh in a new place, where no-one knows you, where you can reinvent yourself and anything is possible and I think we’ve all been Jack. A dream job and the prospect of a brand new relationship with a person who sees things so differently to you. Something new and whole and unbroken. I tell you with no small amount of emphasis, the car-crash fascination one senses as one sees and feels the unravelling of these two, both as a couple and individually, is mesmerising. That, my friends, is a gift. That’s hard to do in real life, never mind in writing and this is some great story-telling. The ability to wrap you up in a tale that is, for the most part, about how good things come apart if you don’t nurture them every step of the way, is a hard-won talent and Nicci Cloke has been honing her craft to an edge where the blade is so sharp it will sing in the gentlest of breezes.

In summary, I utterly loved it and in parts I couldn’t put it down. If you are wondering why it didn’t get five stars, it is simply this: I wanted more. The story ended just a fraction too soon. I needed greater satisfaction from the conclusion to the legend of Jack and Elsa and whilst I’m quite sure that’s an issue for me to deal with, I still felt there was a tidge more for them to say to each other.

Having said that, you must buy it. It’s a wonderful read and it’s most assuredly the kind of book you will recommend to your friends. I know I have!

Our thanks are extended in the fullest to the kind ladies and gents at Vintage for sending this copy for us to review.

If Lay Me Down sounds like it appeals to you, then you ought to take a look at Ancient Light by John Banville, a beautifully written and wonderful meander through the memories of one man's relationships with three women. Alternatively, you might enjoy one of our Top Ten General Fiction Books of 2014, If I Knew You Were Going To Be This Beautiful, I Never Would Have Let You Go by Judy Chicurel which is the kind of debut novel that you can only hope will find its way onto your bookshelf.

Buy Lay Me Down by Nicci Cloke at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Lay Me Down by Nicci Cloke at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Lay Me Down by Nicci Cloke at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Lay Me Down by Nicci Cloke at Amazon.com.


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