Left and Leaving by Jo Verity

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Left and Leaving by Jo Verity

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Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Rachel Holmes
Reviewed by Rachel Holmes
Summary: A wholly believable character-led novel, focussing on the lives of Gil and Vivian, who are thrown together unexpectedly after a catastrophic incident in London.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 374 Date: January 2014
Publisher: Honno Welsh Women's Press
ISBN: 978-1-906784-98-0

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Set in modern day London, this novel explores the lives of two central characters who, on the surface, could not be any different. However, after a catastrophic incident in the city, Gil and Vivian are thrown together through the rather annoying, interfering character of Irene. Spending time with each other in the run up to Christmas, both Gil and Vivian find themselves having to face up to various family issues and responsibilities that, before, they were able to ignore.

Aussie Gil's daughter's unexpected pregnancy arouses guilt in him living at the other side of the world from his family, and leaves him with an important decision to make. Meanwhile, a bad fall results in Vivian's elderly father being in hospital and forces her to evaluate her relationship with not only him, but also that of her late mother and half-brothers. Verity beautifully narrates the struggles these characters have with the various issues surrounding them but, best of all, she tells the journey of the conflicts they have to overcome with themselves. This is not a dramatic, action-filled book, but rather a realistic account of characters' relationships amongst changing circumstances. In essence, Gil and Vivian serve as catalysts for each other's future, enabling one another to make difficult choices and it is this that is the pivotal theme of the novel.

What I think Verity does best is portray her characters so well, the reader feels as though they know them personally. She delves deep into their psyches, revealing the true personalities of these two, slightly troubled, souls. The only character I did struggle with, however, is Irene, the slightly obsessive woman who brings Gil and Vivian together. Irene did serve her purpose in the novel but it would have been nice to perhaps see a bit more of her life and motivations, particularly as her journey as a character felt incomplete. However, Verity does add plenty of depth and detail to her other characters such as Philip Carey, Vivian's father and Feray, Gil's girlfriend, which adds to the complexities of the everyday relationships explored in the novel.

Verity does have a wonderful knack of representing the nitty gritty reality of our modern day world, describing the lifestyles that many of us lead nowadays. The current trends of gap years, working overseas, extended families and relationship age-gaps are explored in great depth, and with a wonderful sensitivity, showing the complexity of life in the twenty-first century.

Verity's style is very easy to read and has an almost colloquial tone, allowing the reader to really get involved in her characters' lives. The writing flows perfectly, even though the focus changes from Gil's perspective to Vivian's throughout the novel and, although I have not read any of Verity's other work, this is clearly where her talent lies. Her descriptions are detailed, yet not tedious, and she manages to balance both simplicity and depth perfectly. Left and Leaving is possibly one of the most realistic novels in terms of characters and lifestyles I have read to date.

Thank you to Honno for the copy of this book.

If this book appeals then we can also recommend Sweets From Morocco by Jo Verity.

Buy Left and Leaving by Jo Verity at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Left and Leaving by Jo Verity at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Left and Leaving by Jo Verity at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Left and Leaving by Jo Verity at Amazon.com.

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