Sunday, September 22, 2013

Book Review: This Is How It Ends

By Becky Gulc

This Is How It Ends was a book that took me a good couple of months to read from start to finish and it’s taken me even longer to get round to reviewing it, finally being prompted into it as I noticed the book has recently been released in paperback. But before anyone assumes I didn’t enjoy the book, that isn’t the case at all. I started reading the book last summer and this was the book I was reading on the morning of the day my beloved dog passed away last August. I couldn’t separate the association especially as a dog plays quite a prominent part in this book, so it was a while before I felt able to pick it up again. Here are my reflections on the book a good few months on. But firstly, what’s it all about?

‘A heartbreaking love story, This Is How It Ends is set in the winter of 2008. The novel tells the story of two people who collide with each other just as the whole world seems to be caught between the drama of Obama’s election and the catastrophic collapse of the global economy.

Bruno is a middle-aged American banker who has come to Ireland as a refugee from the financial meltdown in his own country. Addie is an out of work Irish architect. When she meets Bruno, her life seems to be on a downward spiral.

Addie and Bruno’s story is a story of nationality and identity, of the power of optimism to defeat despair and the unstoppable march of time. It’s the story of two people who find joy together when they were least expecting it. It’s about family and dogs and swimming in the sea. It’s about the past and the future and the elusive skill of living in the moment.’ (Synopsis courtesy of Kathleen MacMahon's website.)

My expectations had been built up by reading that Kathleen had received a six figure advance for this novel and some of the claims on the Amazon product description reviews (e.g. saying if you enjoyed One Day, which I did, you’ll love this).

With hindsight what I enjoyed about this book was that it offered something completely different to what I usually read so it was very refreshing. Quite often I didn’t know what kind of book this was, where it was heading, where I wanted it to head, or whether it was, quite frankly, just a bit strange! It’s very much a character driven novel, mostly centering on Addie and her quite isolated and lonely life when we meet her and her difficulties of life growing up without her mother. When she meets Bruno, I thought the internal dialogue surrounding Addie’s fears but hopes for allowing herself to fall for someone was really strong and it was this which made me care about her as a character when I’d previously felt ambivalent towards her as she comes across as a bit neurotic.

For all the hype of the love story between Addie and Bruno however it was Addie’s relationship with her dog which stood out for me, probably because I love dogs and because of what was happening when I read it but this was the real love story for me. Addie shares such a lovely bond with her dog, she spends lonely days walking and swimming with her dog and this is written about so eloquently and vividly. There were moments that this relationship really made me cry quite a lot, both with sadness and comfort and this is what I’ll take from the book.

I thought the sense of place in this novel was fantastic with some very symbolic references to the sea and sky which added depth to the novel and almost gave it an eerie feel at times.

If I were to give this book a star rating it would probably be 3.5 out of 5, I loved that it was different, quirky even, self-reflective and atmospheric. Whilst reading it though, I was sometimes confused by what kind of book I was meant to be reading, maybe that’s just me though, whilst that was a challenge whilst reading it though once I got to the end though I appreciated this. I wouldn’t compare it to One Day, the ‘love story’ element wasn’t that fundamental for me when I was reading it and it I didn’t cry at all the bits I felt I was expected to, so I maybe lacked the emotional attachment to the characters that I would hope to have by the end of the novel.

Thanks to Little, Brown for the book in exchange for an honest review.

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1 comment:

Janine said...

Great review. I had a book that I started to read one time and the main character was in a coma and the story started with her thoughts. It was the day after my step-father had a stroke and was in a coma. I had the hardest time time picking that book up again. But I did enjoy it once I was able to read it.