Love proves a destructive force in the lives of four Brits who have divergent perspectives on their interrelated dilemmas in another probing, satisfying novel from Livesey (Banishing Verona, 2004, etc.).
In its first section, the story seems to be about a selfish, heartless actress, Abigail, who breaks up poor graduate student Sean’s marriage, then sleeps with his university chum Valentine. Abigail’s so busy and preoccupied she doesn’t notice that her best friend, Dara, is in suicidal despair over a lying lover—but then again, neither does Sean until he comes across Dara’s body in the downstairs flat of the house they all share on Fortune Street in London. The book’s second section concerns Dara’s childhood, seen through the eyes of her father Cameron, who has an unconsummated but unwholesome interest in prepubescent girls. His wife throws him out when she realizes his fondness for Dara’s best friend is more than fatherly, and we see in the third section that his daughter has never recovered from Cameron’s abrupt disappearance when she was ten. We also see that Dara is partly responsible for her disappointments in love, because she makes her boyfriends the obsessive center of her life. She’s rather shocked by Abigail’s casual attitude toward sex; even though the two women have been close since they met at university, their totally different personalities often chafe. Abigail, whose feckless parents let her work her way through both high school and university, is tough-minded and something of a user. She loves Dara, but can’t understand her friend’s neurotic vulnerability. In the moving final pages, Cameron confesses to Abigail what he could never tell Dara, and both confront their failures. “There was no question of them forgiving each other,” Abigail bleakly concludes. Yet the novel is filled with sorrowful wisdom about the fallible human heart and our myopic view of ourselves and those we love.
Moving, gruffly tender and piercingly truthful. Livesey has plenty of critical respect already, but her talents merit a broad popular audience as well.