Together by Julie Cohen
|Together by Julie Cohen|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ruth Ng|
|Summary: This is likely to leave you thinking, and crying, for some time afterwards! Prepare yourself for a love story quite unlike any other...|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 352||Date: July 2017|
|External links: Author's website|
This is a love story told backwards, in the most beautiful manner, so that we know from the very beginning that Emily and Robert love each other enormously, and that he is about to break her heart in the most dreadful way in order to protect a secret that they've lived with for decades. Seeing their love unfold in reverse is beautiful. We get to know them once they have already gotten to know each other, and it makes for an unusual and interesting structure. The secret they hold is referred to throughout, but it isn't revealed until very late in the book. I'm guessing very few readers will figure it out. Even once you know, you want to go back and read the whole story again in the light of the information you now hold.
I always think Julie's characters are beautifully drawn, and this story is no exception. Emily and Robert will leap into your head, and heart, fully formed, breathing and speaking and living as you read more and more about them. Their story is compelling, experiencing these snapshots from throughout their lives, moments of choice and decision and, throughout, secrets and lies. They aren't perfect, not by any means, but of course that only makes them more empathetic. Their love story, also, is far from perfect. Sometimes you want to ring a counsellor on their behalf because it surely cannot be healthy to withhold secrets for so very long! And yet, you understand...the more you get to know them, the more believable their flawed love story is.
The book moves around from, mainly, the East Coast of America to England. It's peopled with intriguing characters, family and friends, who creep into view and then disappear from sight as we slip back further in time. I sometimes wanted more, just a little more time, with a side character or a postscript to finish off their story and tell me how things worked out for them! That's the problem with the book going backwards...you already know there are no more future stories to come. Still, I loved that it never felt like a gimmick, and it flowed perfectly. I think my favourite part was reading towards the end when Emily and Robert first meet, that initial blossoming of romance between them, which you read already knowing their whole lives together afterwards which lends an entirely new outlook on the first moments of their love affair.
When it comes, the final reveal, it is a take-your-breath-away moment. I almost don't want to write that, because I don't want to set expectations too high, but there isn't really any other way of describing it. I need to add it to my reading group's list of books to read because it's definitely one of those books that you feel you immediately need to talk about, but you can only really talk about it with someone else who has finished the story already, so they've had that experience and you can dissect it together! It transforms everything, and everyone in the story, and I read the ending in a daze really, questioning everything that I had just read, and reeling from the weight of what they'd carried their whole lives. It leaves you thinking (and probably crying, if you get like that over books!) for a long, long time.
I think is is a darker and deeper novel than any of Julie's other books. There are moments of humour, but it isn't a humorous book. It's a love story, and yet it's quite unlike other love stories. It will wring you out emotionally, and you will think long and hard afterwards about dear Emily and Robert, and the secret they held onto for so long, and why.
You can read more book reviews or buy Together by Julie Cohen at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Together by Julie Cohen at Amazon.com.
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