By Alison Mercer.
I found this book by chance in a town called March, in March, and I read the blurb and thought it would be interesting, and so much to Damian’s disappointment (he thinks I buy too many books and is heavily concerned about where I am going to put them all) I carried it to the till.
Every broken heart has a history.
Anna Jones went to university in Oxford, at a college called St Bart’s. While there she meets a group of people who later become her friends. The relationships she has with these people are at times complicated and even fragile, everybody being young and wilful and in the process of growing up.
The story starts off in the present day, with Anna heading towards middle age. She has a chance encounter with her old ex, Victor, and this brings in a flood of all the old friendships and experiences of her past, which make her realise that she needs to face up to what happened at St Bart’s so long ago.
But what did happen? This huge question creates an atmosphere of suspense and trepidation throughout the book, and it is done so creatively and also craftily that there were certain points where I could not put the book down. I always wanted to know more!
I think the strength of this book lies in the massive secret that is slowly being unfolded. However the plot of a book cannot rely alone on the buildup to exposition, and what really carries this book forward is the wonderful characterisation, the strong, complex portrayal of human behaviour, relationships, the selfishness and insecurities of youth, all interwoven into these characters, making them very real and sometimes hateful. I also couldn’t help falling slightly in love with some of them.
After I Left You is one of those novels that will linger with me as life drags me ever forward. It belongs in my bookshelf, a place reserved only for books that evoke something inside me and ignite my mind. This is one such book.