Novels rooted in a particular area where the place and scenery come alive off the page are favourites of mine. Studland Bay in Dorset, England is a beautiful part of the country, a dramatic coastline which is an ideal for a dramatic story. In Another You, Jane Cable uses the place to great effect. Key action scenes take place at the looming chalk cliffs, the Old Harry rocks, the sand dunes and heath.
The time in which the story is set is cleverly chosen too, the sixtieth anniversary of preparations for the D-Day landings, preparations which took place along the south coast of England. It is a time full of memories, grief, regret and gratitude.
In this place and time, Cable sets her story. Marie is chef at The Smugglers, the pub she owns with her husband Stephen, from whom she is separated. Jude their son, a student, lives at the pub and helps out. Despite its popularity, the pub’s finances are not good and there is not enough cash to pay suppliers. Marie doesn’t understand what is happening and is stressed by this and having to deal with her difficult husband. This human story plays out alongside rehearsals for a commemorative re-enactment of Exercise Smash, the exercises conducted to rehearse for the Normandy landings. There are strangers in town, in the pub, soldiers, tanks, tourists. One day walking among the dunes, Marie meets an American soldier Corbin. Entranced by his old-fashioned manners, Marie looks for Corbin again but his presence is unpredictable, he appears and disappears. Marie also meets George, an elderly local gentleman who actually fought at D-Day, and his businessman son Mark; and then there is Paxton, another American serviceman based at a nearby tank museum, who entrances Marie and with whom she starts an affair.
Will Marie self-destruct before she confronts her husband? Will she ask Paxton why he can’t sleep at night, or Jude why he is so unhappy. Her frequent migraines and love of a glass of brandy make her an unreliable narrator, at times she is unable to see the way forward from her situation or question some of her wilder assumptions. Throughout this time, the voice of reason belongs to George. At times I found the story disorientating. In the middle of a migraine, Marie’s sense of the real is blurred, is she remembering real things, having visions, hallucinating, seeing ghosts, blacking out? Mark is a breath of fresh air in the midst of this emotional turmoil. When Marie first meets him, he is tying up his sailing dinghy. Somehow the sea, the waves and wind symbolise a freedom from the troubles on land.
A strong recurring theme throughout Jane Cable’s fiction is the way past and present inter-connect, decisions made years earlier are re-visited, things which happened to an older generation has significance today. This check-and-balance keeps the pages turning quickly.
‘Another You’ by Jane Cable [UK: Endeavour] Buy now
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ANOTHER YOU by @JaneCable #bookreview via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-2ke