Lucy by Alan Kennedy
|Lucy by Alan Kennedy|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: A story of art, war and missed opportunities. Cleverly and carefully written with a central character who is not particularly likeable but who draws you in despite yourself. I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Alan Kennedy popped into Bookbag Towers to chat to us.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 200||Date: July 2014|
|Publisher: Lasserrade Press|
Lucy is a painter. Hiding away in Dundee on VE Day, she returns from a disaster of an exhibition to a letter from a figure from her past. Uncle Albert, still in France, wants to sort out his affairs - who will get what after he's dead. The letter sends Lucy on a voyage of discovery - about a past full of art, lost love, found love, grief, war and about what could possibly come next. Set in pre-war London, pre-war and wartime France and windy, rainy Dundee, Lucy is a love story, but it's also a kind of coming-home.
I will say that I found Lucy quite difficult to get into. I understand that Kennedy's other novels feature the same characters and it may be that a familiar reader wouldn't find this problem. If it's the same for you, I can only say: do persevere. Once I'd got into the stride of the novel, I was utterly absorbed.
Lucy isn't particularly likeable. She's quite the crazy, mixed up kid - reserved, unable and unwilling to communicate her feelings, often making quite perverse decisions, and full of the baggage that comes with having been a child prodigy. She's afraid of her own feelings and this often means that she is unfair or ungenerous in her dealings with others. But Kennedy is clever because you can feel her pain and confusion throughout the book and you want a happy ending for her.
I found the story at its strongest when it was describing the early days of World War II in France. In their splendid and artistic isolation in a rural village, Lucy and Albert believe the propaganda radio broadcasts that Britain has already been defeated. They watch aghast as New France collaborates with the Nazis and as Jews become personae non grata almost overnight. They run out of food and starvation stops them from thinking straight:
As autumn quietly sloped into winter, Lucy learned that war was squabbling queues at the grocers; war was the butcher closing early, then closing altogether; war was shamefully stealing a head of maize from an abandoned field. Above all, war was feeling hungry.
This part of the book is very slightly surreal as the two artists lose focus from lack of food and I really felt I saw it all through the eyes of people whose every thought is about translating life to canvas.
There's a lovely sense of place, as seen through a painter's eyes, throughout the book. London and Dundee come to life as vividly as rural France. There's a real sense of war as it is experienced by those who are not fighting it. There's a thoughtful picture of the alienation of the artist - Lucy herself is consumed in her search for love but ironically only really finds it once she loses her artistic mojo - being a source of genius. And it all ties in together with a teasing, multi-layered narrative. What more could you want?
I think you'd enjoy Lucy but I think you'd enjoy it even more if, unlike me, you read Kennedy's other books first.
Also featuring war-time France is Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris.
Alan Kennedy was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.
You can read more book reviews or buy Lucy by Alan Kennedy at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Lucy by Alan Kennedy at Amazon.com.
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