A curious book depicting a life, this is a novel which looks at the interconnectedness between people against a background of much bigger forces. While this is essentially the story of a girl’s relationship with her family, in the background is her grandfather’s theorem of the nature of the universe, and the attractions of planets for each other. Not that there is much science in this novel, as the main character admits that she struggles to understand the mathematics of the science, but the essential humour of the situation is still present. These are big characters in deceptive settings, the bleakness of North Berwick, the warmth of an Italian extended family, the new life that must take place aware. With subtle phrases and hints that define the narrative, this is a novel that keeps the reader on their toes throughout; the author is so comfortable with the plot and characters that he can afford to release the story gradually. This is a funny yet touching book, thoughtful as the main character reacts and sometimes acts within her memorable family. Her asides and realisations of the implications of the actions of others are so telling. There are running jokes, as everyone looks for a non existent swimming pool and casual reference is made to celebrities, especially actors. I was pleased to be able to read and review this book so soon after publication.
The book opens with an insight into the character of Emma’s mother, beautiful but troubled, self contradicting and in need of reassurance. Even as a young child Emma is aware that her mother needs her; as she drives the Bentley she calls it a battleship which attracts attention and is difficult to park. The details are all there of a trip to the cinema as Emma states that she hates cartoons, but bounces in her seat when taken to a film that she struggles to understand, even if she can place the action in Paris. When Emma’s father Paul comes onto the screen, he is seemingly killed, and Emma is loudly distraught. So it emerges that he is and actor on an upwards trajectory, who seems to love her and her mother, yet spends a lot of time away in London and elsewhere. Emma details her closeness to her mother as an only child, and her deep affection for her Italian Grandfather, a professor of Physics who has produced a book on the secrets of the universe, including probability, and it is these theories which luck in the background of the novel, as the improbable happens and the expected occurs. Emma feels compelled to move on and change her life after a tragic event , but not without her loving descriptions of the flutterings of first love. Major life events and small details both abound throughout this book, grounding a book which also casually mentions Brad Pitt, Judi Dench and others, while acknowledging that there is plenty of money available to her.
This is an enjoyable and intelligent book, which has a strong plot and fascinating characters. Emma maintains her constant commentary of her thoughts, her perceptions and noticing of details. I found the way that facts are dropped in, ideas and images carefully applied and the story is told is so clever. I recommend this book as a contemporary read of great interest and significance, and containing a memorable character in Emma.
Last night I sang in three choir concert in a local church. As the other two choirs were male voice only, the fact that our choir has female altos and sopranos caused much confusion. A few Welsh songs confusingly sung in English, teddy bears for a picnic and an Abba song all made for an unusual evening!