The Outline of Love by Morgan McCarthy

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The Outline of Love by Morgan McCarthy

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A young woman with little life experience goes to university in London and contrives a relationship with a celebrated author. Suspend disbelief on the plot and concentrate on the great writing.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: July 2013
Publisher: Tinder Press
ISBN: 978-0755388776

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Persephone Triebold has spent most of her life on the Assynt Peninsula in north-west Scotland. It's isolated, rugged and under-populated. Her father opted to live there after the death of his wife, feeling that it was safe for his young daughter. She's been home-schooled and has had very little contact with other people - but makes the decision that she's going to university in London. Once there she shares a house with three other girls and develops a crush on former indie musician and Booker-winning novelist Leo Ford. She works her way into his circle of friends - and finally into his bed - but never feels that has connected with him. Part of it is that she can't get past that incident in his past which involved his sister, Ivy, her partner, a gun and a sword - and no one will talk about it.

I really wanted to love this book. The idea of a young woman with little life experience heading for London seemed to have limitless possibilities, but I hit a major problem early on: I didn't warm to Persephone. I found myself reading a book narrated by someone I would have crossed the road to avoid. Her life revolves around (very little) studying, clothes, getting ready to go out, going out, drinking too much and having lengthy discussions with other girls about the rather poor sample of males by which they're surrounded. Morgan McCarthy catches student life perfectly and it sets the scene well, but there was so much of it that it became tedious and didn't really seem to move the story on.

Then there was the manner in which Persephone engineered a meeting with Leo Ford. It was so contrived that I would have groaned at finding it in a chick-lit novel. I might not have liked Persephone - she certainly came off the page well - but I couldn't believe in Leo Ford. He seemed more like an idea of a celebrity rather than a breathing being.

There were redeeming features though. The writing is good - in places it's exquisite:

I thought about [him] when I was daydreaming or before I went to sleep, trying to remember him perfectly, until he got worn away with the constant handling, his face eroding like a statue's, and all that was left were the things he said, learned off by heart, and his blue eyes.

McCarthy has a real talent for capturing place - it's a considerable skill to be able to bring to life places so diverse as the Assynt Peninsula and central London and they're conveyed in remarkably few words. The story does pick up in the final pages - and much of what had gone on before became clear - but I did wish that there could have been a better balance.

I'd like to thank the publisher for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

If this book appeals then you might also enjoy The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer and Almost English by Charlotte Mendelson.

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Buy The Outline of Love by Morgan McCarthy at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Outline of Love by Morgan McCarthy at


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