The Lives She Left Behind by James Long

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The Lives She Left Behind by James Long

Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: The eagerly awaited sequel to Fearney is here, providing a good excuse for an evening in. The focus of this novel is different, but the romance, desolation and historical snippets remain just as good as the first, with, this time, the added bonus of police procedural thrills.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 416 Date: September 2012
Publisher: Quercus
ISBN: 978-1780875323

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Jo has always been an odd child, talking to her imaginary friend Gally from almost as soon as she could talk. Her widowed mother drags her from doctor to therapist until medication becomes the only answer. It provides peace for Jo's mother but pushes the teenage Jo into a shady half-existence. Meanwhile somewhere else, Luke is also a teenager leading a half-life as he co-exists with his mother and her disdainful, temperamental partner. Luke feels more at home in the great outdoors than under a roof and gradually comes to realise why. They may have lived this long unaware of each other, but Luke's and Jo's worlds collide one summer at an archaeological dig and what they discover is beyond their wildest imaginings.

Former BBC journalist, James Long, has written around 16 books, including science fiction and a co-authored work on Samuel Pepys, but the one that has rocketed him to the fore is Ferney. Now, 15 years after Ferney was first published, its sequel is here. However, James Long had given himself a problem. Having read Ferney, everyone already knows the premise and understands who Gally and Ferney are. So how do you move on from there whilst offering something new? The answer is that Mr Long changed the emphasis. The Lives She Left Behind (TLSLB as I'll call it for short) concentrates more on the effects of living with love-bound reincarnated souls and the havoc and heartbreak they leave in their wake.

For those of us who sided with Michael Martin (Gally's husband in the first book) he's back and proving we were right to be affected by his plight. For reasons hinted at around the end of Ferney, he's now a lost and broken man working at the local comprehensive. Here in TLSLB he meets new Ferney, realises there must be a new Gally and becomes elated at being reunited with what he's lost, without stopping to think of the practicalities. Psychologically James Long is spot on as poor Mike suffers from the effects of bereavement, potential reincarnation, jealousy and then bitter realisation before our eyes and tearing at our hearts. (That isn't a spoiler by the way; his elation and realisation happen within pages rather than taking the whole book.)

The other difference is that Gally and Ferney are now teenagers, coming complete with responsible parents and society's protective expectations. This not only means we see a capricious, selfish Ferney (just wait if you thought he was self-centred as a pensioner!) but it provides one of the major plotlines as Michael is forced to fight for his freedom. (Talking of characters and plotlines, by the way, thank you, James Long, for staying faithful to the depth of Mike's turmoil and not going down the love interest path.)

I have one minor moan: the lack of fresh historic mind slips. The author ensures that TLSLB can be read as a one-off by recapping some of their past memories. However, we aren't treated to any fresh ones till quite late on. (Fresh historic…? You know what I mean!) Although perhaps I'm being a bit ungracious, for these are phenomenal memories. We share the poignant lifetime during which Ferney and Gally had children, thus we understand why they've remained childless since. We also share the lifetime that ensures we understand the full significance of the stone that stands outside the cottage. Indeed, I do feel a little churlish moaning considering that, in TLSLB, Michael's struggle to clear his name adds edge-of-the-seatness whilst demonstrating the author's ability to vary writing style mid-novel.

James Long ends the book by apparently closing the door on any thought of a third Ferney and Gally volume but hopefully we'll be treated to another of his general offerings soon. After all, if you've written over 40 books it would be a shame not to go on to at least number 50… wouldn't it?

A special thank you to Quercus for sending us a copy of this book for review.

If you've enjoyed this but haven't read Ferney then go… do it now! If you're already a fan, and you'd like something romantic and just as special, This Is How It Ends by Kathleen MacMahon comes with our unreserved recommendation.

Buy The Lives She Left Behind by James Long at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Lives She Left Behind by James Long at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Lives She Left Behind by James Long at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Lives She Left Behind by James Long at Amazon.com.


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James Long said:

Thrilled to (very belatedly) discover your review which hit the nail on the head. Since then Ferney has found a fourth reincarnation with Simon & Schuster. Who knows? There could always be a prequel still to come. I have to admit I haven’t actually written 46 books - a mere 16 or so including four under pen names. The man responsible for all those others is an American sic-fi writer called James D. Long. 46? I feel exhausted at the thought and am currently well behind deadline for my next one - a 17th century novel based round untold aspects of the Pepys story.

Best wishes,

James Long

The Editor said:

OOPS! at the 46 books: that's now been corrected.

Sue