Ed & Lily by Sofia Due
Christmas can often be a time of high emotions, and in this novel the race to get into London and the long wait for an arrival stretch the limits of a relationship. Ed is a man of habit, of a set image, of flexibility only in regard to Lily. Lily is a woman whose identity is all about being able to cope with the unexpected as well as the planned, a born performer who usually has enough confidence to cope with any situation. In this novel a relationship is seen in the context of the people around it, the current situation in the light of the first meeting, significant moments in its progress, and the frustrations of travel when communication and transport seem to conspire to make things impossible. It is also funny; Lily’s lifestyle in the early part of the relationship is messy as she is called on to wear remarkable costumes for impromptu performances ranging from being a hedge, bringing paintings to life and covering dancing letters. Ed is more predictable, keen on cleanliness and tidiness, his faithful leather coat and certain boots. His family is more challenging, especially his flamboyant uncle whose remarkable flat he inhabits. From first meeting to strained build up to Christmas, this is a book of emotion, humour and contemporary life which I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this enjoyable novel.
This novel opens with Lily embarking on a journey to London from Cardiff on 23rd December 2017. She would like to discard her flaky Christmas jumper, but it is handmade and fits with her environmentally ethical employer, which turns out to be a medical charity which sends medical teams and equipment out to crisis zones around the world. Despite her daily job of organising technical equipment, she is making heavy weather of a journey which she has tackled many times before to see Ed who is still London based. A necessary but private purchase means she leaves behind her bank card, and she is unable to get her train ticket. Forced onto a bus, she calls to tell Ed who is not terribly sympathetic, knowing her tendency to miss trains. He has planned a trip for them to Iceland, a strange destination for both of them, very different from their usual leisure trips. As disaster and challenge means Lily’s trip gets more and more delayed, Ed is shown moving around London in haze. He feels that he ought to go to the hotel he has booked for them, and a brief conversation does show the humour and relaxed nature of their normal relationship. As the narrative reverts to 2012, the story of a party is told, arranged for Ed’s brother Kit by his girlfriend Anisia. Ed’s friends turn up in fancy shirts, a young woman turns up on a bike. Lily takes Ed dancing, and although both are playing it cool there is an undoubted attraction. As their relationship develops they try to see each other, but other flashbacks show that Lily lives in a blur of costumes and colour, whereas Ed is more monochrome by his own admission. Both have challenging families, and Lily’s change of job is a challenge both to her own peace of mind and their relationship.
This is essentially an enjoyable contemporary romance told with humour and genuine affection. I enjoyed its honesty about the difficulties that families can create, and the details of Lily’s job which is never straightforward. It is clever in its depiction of a relationship between opposites, the humour and colour of the dialogue between the main characters, and the memorable Martin. I recommend this book for those who enjoy a gentle romance set at Christmas with a sideways look at contemporary life.