British author Jewell’s fifth novel (after A Friend of the Family, 2003, etc.) is a deliciously addictive read filled with London oddballs, horrid husbands and romantic destiny.
Thirty-five year old Vince is sitting in a kitchen with friends, fresh from the demise of his marriage to wild-child Jess, when the conversation veers to the first time each had sex. Amid tales of awkward fumbling and comic disappointment comes Vince’s recollection of Joy. They met as misfit teenagers at a third-rate beach resort—their parents’ rented trailers stood side by side—and the two, Joy beautifully fragile despite the army surplus shorts, Vince ruggedly handsome, experienced something close to love at first sight. After much hand-holding and a youthful baring of souls, Vince and Joy have a perfect night of sex in a field, and then through a series of miscommunications, the two are separated for another 17 years. What ensues is mundane life—dreary, disappointing, occasionally brilliant, most often just ordinary, as Vince and Joy attempt to navigate relationships all wrong for them. With a dead-end job and nursing a slightly bruised heart, Joy responds to a personal ad for a man described as handsome. He is not. But accountant George is rather sweet and interesting and enjoys the nightly spliff. And though Joy is not attracted to him in the least, the two begin a pallid romance that leads to a miserable marriage. Meanwhile, Vince has paired up with Jess, a free spirit who’s just a bit too free for Vince’s taste, what with the partying, the ex-boyfriends hanging about and the drug use, with an infant at home. Through the years, Vince and Joy’s paths have crisscrossed, but always at the worst possible time, delaying the inevitable, fated true love. Can Jewell sustain 500 pages of suspense until our lovers reconnect? Can a reader survive this much romantic pudding? Oh, yeah.
With wit and well-rendered characters, the author fills her story with keen observations about real life and the possibility of real love.