Thursday, July 12, 2012

Book Review: The Day You Saved My Life

By Becky Gulc

"The Day You Saved my Life" is the latest novel by Louise Candlish, but the first novel of hers that I’ve read. Here is the synopsis:

‘A child falls into the river.
A stranger jumps in to rescue him.
And four lives are changed for ever...

On a perfect summer’s day in Paris, tourists on the river watch in shock as a small boy falls into the Seine and disappears below the surface. As his mother stands frozen, a stranger takes a breath and leaps . . .

From the internationally bestselling author of "Since I Don’t Have You" comes a spellbinding story of passion, heartbreak and destiny – an unforgettable novel about mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, and the extraordinary ways that life and love intersect.’ (Taken from the back cover)

This was a book promising to hook me in from the very first page, so my expectations were immediately high!

This novel is written from three different viewpoints, Holly, Joanna and Alexa. Holly is the single parent of Mikey, the little boy who falls into the river. As someone suffering a severe case of post-natal depression this young parent isn’t keen on the trip to Paris with her Mum (Joanna) and son to say the least. With Joanna doing the day to day childrearing and Holly firmly taking an uninterested back seat, Joanna hopes the much-needed trip will stir some life into her daughter and help her on her way to becoming a hands on parent to Mikey. Meanwhile Alexa is secretly hoping to resuscitate her marriage to James, which appears to be floundering, not that they’d admit it by talking about it. Will the trip for their fifth wedding anniversary help? When events lead to James heroically diving into the Seine to save Mikey, all these lives become intertwined, leading onto an unexpected chain of events that not everyone will be happy about.

The character development in the novel is extremely strong and well executed for each of the three characters. As readers, we gain a good understanding of each of the character’s personalities before the key event on the river, which happens quickly, but also through character reflections into the past throughout the novel. Each one of the women change as a result of the incident in Paris to a significant degree, whilst this isn’t always in a positive way it definitely makes for an interesting read and raises some moral questions along the way.

All of the characters are fully rounded and I particularly enjoyed Joanna’s story, you feel for her, this patient, caring woman who puts her daughter and grandson above everything else, even her own relationships. Joanna’s back story was drip-fed throughout the novel and there were some great family twists along the way that had me gripped. Each of the characters has their strengths and weaknesses and it was written in a way which keeps you on your toes, just as you think you know a character and how they’ll react, they’ll do something (or have done something in the past) which surprises you – I loved that about this book (sometimes this can make you feel a bit robbed as a reader, but I didn’t feel the way with this book at all). I kept changing my mind about whether I agreed or disagreed with what someone was doing and as to whether I liked them or not, but whatever it was, as a reader you understood their motivations and that building of empathy made it a very strong novel for me.

I don’t want to give the main crux of the story away, but just to say that initially I didn’t get the sudden change in some of characters after the incident (and felt it wasn’t sustainable), but that added to my intrigue in the rest of the book. I really didn’t know what to expect, but wasn’t disappointed by the twists and turns along the way.

At 482 pages, this isn’t a quick read by any means and the pages have narrow margins (I would have preferred these to be wider), but I never found it to be too long; the pace worked well for me. It’s a very fulfilling read with complex but interesting characters than you can warm to and I looked forward to reading it every day. And I agree with the statement on the front of the book ‘Read the first page and you won’t stop. Read to the end and you’ll never forget’– not just effective marketing, accurate marketing! I miss this book already! I wholeheartedly recommend this book. One of my favourites of the year so far.

More by Louise Candlish:

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