Greater Love by Lucy Wadham

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Greater Love by Lucy Wadham

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Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Fairhead
Reviewed by Sue Fairhead
Summary: Aisha's twin Jose is very important to her - perhaps too important. When she leaves him to work in Paris, their painful separation begins, with profound effects on them both. As she grows up in body and mind, she slowly learns about forgiveness and healing.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: July 2007
Publisher: Faber and Faber
ISBN: 978-0571234899

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This is the story of the Portuguese girl Aisha, told from her perspective as an adult. The book opens and closes as she nurses a baby, and discusses with her husband whether to return to her village in Portugal for her mother's funeral.

The rest of the book recounts her life, beginning right at the start with her conception. This is a violent and unexpected event which causes her mother to be bitter and unloving, and begins the painful pattern of Aisha's childhood and that of her twin brother Jose. Jose, for various reasons, is an outcast from a young age, cared for only by his sister and a teacher they learn to respect. So when Aisha decides to escape from her life and go to Paris for a while, Jose feels abandoned.

Aisha throws herself into life in France, finds a job, begins to study, discovers sex, and eventually brings Jose there too... where he makes some unusual friends.

That's the start, anyway, of a book that took me a week to read, despite being less than 300 pages. It wasn't that I disliked it - far from it. The writing is excellent, evocative and sensitive; the story moves at a good pace, the people and places are all believable. But it was the kind of book I could read just in the evenings, without feeling that I needed to find out what was happening at every moment. It's a book to savour, to think about, and even to learn from. The horrors of September 11th 2001 are significant to Aisha, since Jose becomes friendly with some Muslims; the point is made, without any preaching, that many Muslims are peace-loving and gentle.

There's violence in the book, at times shocking, but it's not over-done or gory in any way. The sex is likewise understated and tastefully written. More important are the principles represented by the actions - trust and infidelity, love and anger, health and sickness. Aisha goes through many stages during the story, as daughter, sister, nanny, lover, friend, and eventually learns acceptance and unconditional love through a Muslim couple who treat her as a surrogate daughter.

There's a strong theme of forgiveness throughout the book, of redemption, and of the vital need for communication within families. Aisha learns a great deal about herself and her past, sees mistakes she made as a child and young adult in perspective. It's not giving away anything - since the ending mirrors the beginning - to say that eventually she is able to let go of her past and move forward: to be a good mother herself despite not having had a good mother as a child.


Thanks to the publisher for sending the book.

If you like thought-provoking books with religious themes, you might like Glittering Images by Susan Howatch, or The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.

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Buy Greater Love by Lucy Wadham at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Greater Love by Lucy Wadham at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Greater Love by Lucy Wadham at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Greater Love by Lucy Wadham at


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