“ Genre: Fiction / Author: Catherine Ryan Hyde / Edition: 1 / Hardcover / 272 Pages / Book is published 2008-03-04 by Flying Dolphin Press „
The cover of this paperback edition is emblazoned 'The New Novel from the bestselling Richard and Judy Book Club author'.
Personally, that just tells me that the author may have a popular and fairly accessible style and the book is likely to be modern fiction. I do know a lot of people who would be put off by the R&J reference, people who seem to conflate 'popular' with 'trash'.
If they reached that conclusion and did not read 'Chasing Windmills' they would miss out on an enjoyable and engaging read.
I have not read 'Love in the Present Tense', an earlier book by this author and one of the books selected for the Richard and Judy Book Club. I will be looking for it now, however, as I really enjoyed this book and I am always happy to try another book when I have enjoyed one of the authors offerings.
The book takes the eternal love story (boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back), runs it through the filter of Romeo and Juliet, in turn filters that through West Side Story (complete with a New York location) and then updates the whole thing from the 50's into the current decade.
Teenager Sebastian has been cut off from the world by a domineering father who try's to teach him that people are intrinsically flawed and that looking for love or even friendship is futile. Despite this Sebastian finds a way, first out into the world, then to find a friend and quickly finds love too.
Maria, a victim who blames herself when her abusive boyfriend attacks her, just hopes that their two children are not seeing the abuse in the way she saw it in her parent's home. It is only because she does not want to confront and anger her boyfriend that she is out of the house at all and yet that is the way she gets to meet Sebastian and her life changes.
This is a love story and a reads like a possible road movie, it's a triumph of hope over experience and an allegorical journey where physical space allows emotional growth. It is peopled with believable characters and peppered with 20th centaury cultural references which resonate clearly.
I enjoyed the story, which I found well paced and believable and I cared what happened to the characters. The construct, where sections of the story are told in first-person narrative alternately by Sebastian and Maria is very clever, keeps the momentum and allows you to have a constantly updated picture of what is going on with these two very closed off people, essential as they are both consciously hiding their emotions from those around them.
I heartily recommend this as a read.
ISBN 978-1-409-60086-2, my copy in paperback published by Black Swan has a cover price of £6.99 but I bought it with another book at 2 for £7 in a Tesco Book Club selection.