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Set in Ireland, At A Time Like This follows four friends who meet while studying at Trinity College. On leaving university and making their own way in the world, they made a pact to always keep in touch and meet monthly. We join them on the eve of the 25th anniversary of that pact, now women in their forties with varying success in their lives. But what secrets will be revealed and throw doubt on 25 years of Friendship? And why is one of the four planning not to be there at all?
~ Georgie ~
Strong willed, intelligent, impatient and fiercely loyal, Georgina, or Georgie as she is known to her friends is at the centre of the friendships having brought them together at college. Now a successful Business woman, wife and mother of twins, she is about to throw everything away and embark on a new life.
~ Maggie ~
Georgie's oldest friend, Maggie is kind and dependable and the lynchpin of the group of friends who has held them together threw the years, despite being badly betrayed by one of them. Also a successful business woman in partnership with Georgie, her marriage is less successful as her husband continually plays away from home. But Maggie has being preparing her own escape and is about to execute it now her three children are grown up.
~ Claire ~
A respected editor of a large fashion magazine, Claire harbours feelings of abandonment from her Mother leaving her at just 12 years old. After something went wrong in her stable relationship with Maggies brother at college, surprising all the friends with a sudden split, Claire finds relationships difficult. A decision she made all those years ago has repercussions now and Claire is lonely and longs for the one thing she can't have.
~ Nora ~
Introduced to the group by kind Maggie, Nora is slightly older than the rest and somewhat different. She doesn't strive for a career and success as the others do, and has enjoyed a stable and happy marriage to Frank, her loyal and loving husband. Only just tolerated by Georgie, Nora feels she is the outsider in the group. But Nora has a secret too, something that will shock the friends and prove there is more to 'Boring' Nora than they ever imagined.
The Book begins with Georgie obviously leaving her life behind her and fleeing the country. I was immediatly drawn in by the mystery of it all. Why would such a successful woman, who has a loving husband and 2 daughters about to go to university and start a life of there own run away? The beginning chapter reeked of secrets and I was intrigued from the very start.
The story is told in the first person by Georgie, in the present. However each second chapter gives the other three characters a voice, also in the first person. It is through them that we learn how the friends met and their lives have entwined for the past 25 years. It was never difficult to know who we were hearing from at any time, as the chapter begins with their name before ending and going back to Georgie in the present. I really liked this style in this book, as the narrative was reminiscing and wondering, it was like being in each individual characters mind and hearing their thoughts. I felt that the author made a good job of adapting her writing style to suit each of the three characters, stopping the story being monotonous and keeping it interesting.
The book is very character driven and each one is drawn very well, which is just as well as the plot is really just life itself with the complexities it holds and the effects it has on friendships. This isn't a long book, at just 269 pages, however an awful lot of interesting writing was packed into these pages and the story flowed very well. Slow and surprising revelations, along with the writers brilliant observations on human relationships meant that I never found it boring and looked forward to getting back to the book.
A quote on the front of the book asks ' How well do you know your best friend?' and while I agree that the book is about how little we really do know the people closest to us, think that this statement makes the book sound fluffier than it actually is. There are lots of complex situations and feelings raised within the book and the writer isn't afraid to tackle the selfish and nasty side of relationships as well as the positive. Resentment, tension, jealously and betrayal are all tackled. Georgie and Nora's relationship is very difficult, neither of them liking each other very much yet finding themselves thrown together through mutual friends. I could relate to a lot of the emotions and issues throughout the book, I'm pretty sure we have all resented or envied our closest friends and at times haven't particularly liked some of them.
The women in the book are intelligent and strong, and I felt the writer wrote them with the maturity they deserved. I often read a book where the authers writing of the character doesn't match their supposed intelligence or success. I did feel there was something familiar about the book, and think it reminded me in a way of a couple of Maeve Binchy books I read years ago, not only because it was set in Ireland, like her's are, but the way the story was about the characters rather than the plot. Perhaps readers of her books would enjoy this one.
If I had one criticism of the book, it would be that I was left feeling unsatisfied at the end. There were a couple of things I thought should be included before it ended, that all the loose ends just weren't tied up. I wouldn't have minded another 50 or so pages just to round things up.
I did really enjoy this book. It is simply about the lives and long friendship of 4 women in their forties, yet I was still surprised and intrigued to know more. At times I both liked and empathised with each character, yet at other times disliked them. Georgies reason for fleeing was a shocker, but completely believable. In fact, I think that is what I liked most about the book, that it was believable and I could relate to most of the story and feelings. It isn't a difficult book to read, although I would also be hasty to add that it isn't fluff. I think this is an ideal holiday or relaxing weekend book.