Review of And then forever

Having attended the launch of And then forever something of the atmosphere lived on and it prompted me to start reading the novel straight away. Soon I could not put it down. We all (don't we?) have relations who went abroad and forged new lives on distant shores, so there is a starting point for most of us. Christine De Luca's own story merges with the fictional characters, from two different times in history. One being current, the story of Katherine and Peter and the other is set just after 1900 and it tells us the moving tale of Gilbert and Bridget. However both narratives have an equal zest and attraction (something unusual, as we normally end up skipping over one narrative to continue with the more interesting) and I looked forward to the next instalment, in chapters, of each. I was particularly drawn to the two women who were both decisive, admirable and of their generation. Katherine takes a gamble that I would never have the courage to take and Bridget cannot, though she desperately wishes to, because she is constrained by her faith and her father.

The use of time also works well because we gradually discover Bridget and Gilbert's story, long after their deaths and it is this which is really affecting, as there is a sense that the happiness in the here and now was paid for by the tragedy there and then. Bridget, in particular, charges the imagination because she had the grit and determination to continue with her life and be successful but she remained kind, even though a part of her clearly remained in mourning, all her life, for the life she never had. We still get a sense of very real lives and places, which is particularly evocative as seen through the faded glamour of the tourist today, compared with the snow, the effort and the sawdust then.

There are a couple of objects (and I am not going to give the game away but one of them is touchingly romantic and moving - unless you are totally heartless of course) which work in both settings and knit the past and the present together at the end. Indeed I almost believed, at one point, that the key motif was going to be missed and I was almost yelling with frustration until it was (fortunately) discovered. Make 'em cry, make 'em wait works very well in And then forever and yes, for a woman of my age it also showed that life is not only lived by the young!

Review of 'And then forever', Diana Esland, November 2011