Monday, February 20, 2023

Book Review: Alice Alone

By Sara Steven

On the day that her youngest child leaves home, Alice Hatton discovers two disturbing truths in a matter of hours.

The Empty Nest cliche is true.

And she does not love her husband Peter at all.

Now in her fifties, Alice is appalled to realise that she is no longer considered her own person, but is instead defined by her relationships – mother to her adult children, wife to her husband. Horrified by the thought of spending another thirty years with Peter in their North London suburb, Alice decides to take matters into her own hands.

What follows is a triumphant and liberating breaking of all the rules. But when Alice must cope with loss for the second time in as many years, she discovers what even the most apparently ‘respectable ‘woman is capable of. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Alice Alone is an interesting perspective on pushing through with a loveless marriage. The way both characters describe their lives and their relationship felt nothing short of sad and laced with marital duty. For so long, Alice had her children to tend to, and to turn to. But once she becomes an empty nester, she discovers just how much is lacking within her marriage. Peter feels the same way, but there are tones of familial understanding; the type of relationships and marriages that were seen within his own life weren’t ones based on happiness or fulfillment. Marriages were based on obligation. It feels like one big obligation for this relationship, and Alice has had enough. 

The way in which Alice takes matters into her own hands had been shocking, but yet it had come as no surprise. The more shocking elements consisted of the ways she’d gone about it, and how quickly her choices revved up until it felt completely out of her control. The author did a great job of portraying that image as well as the emotions that Alice feels. There seems to be a real disconnect with the sorts of consequences that can come from her actions. Maybe because she feels she really doesn’t have anything to lose. That kind of freedom can certainly feel liberating.

The loss she experiences later on wasn’t unexpected. A large part of me had hoped for the best for her, because I wanted to see good things happen in Alice’s life. For so long, she’s been an extension of everyone else and for everyone else, but has never really had something for herself. Funnily, Peter has his own epiphanies due to personal experiences, which leads him to see his wife in a new light. As one grows closer, the other pulls away, which makes the other draw even closer, and you wonder if this could mean a new beginning for this relationship, or not. 

The story takes place in the eighties, and maybe I missed something–but I didn’t know that until about 20% into the book. That could very well be my own issue of skipping a page or two, or not recognizing the era, but it was a bit jarring for me so far in. I think indicating the time period within the first few pages would have been beneficial, because time periods can help dictate the societal norms of that era. But again, maybe it had been mentioned and I missed it. The ending was an unexpected one, and something I didn’t see coming. But given Alice and her characterization, it felt right. Alice Alone was an open, honest read and wholeheartedly steered clear of pulling any punches.

Thanks to Rachel's Random Resources for the book in exchange for an honest review.

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Amanda Brookfield
is the bestselling author of many novels including Good Girls, Relative Love, and Before I Knew You, and a memoir, For the Love of a Dog starring her Golden Doodle Mabel. She lives in London and has recently finished a year as Visiting Creative Fellow at University College Oxford.

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