Newest Review: ... and so naturally found it easier to empathise with her, but I think Sean's character takes a little time to develop and I wasn't sure what... more
Outstanding book by Louise Douglas
Missing You - Louise Douglas
Member Name: Holland1
Missing You - Louise Douglas
Advantages: Lovely descriptive work, story told from both viewpoints, excellent characters
Disadvantages: None for me
Not long ago, Louise Douglas was an author I'd never heard of, and I have read two of her books, one of which I loved, and the other left me a bit disappointed. I decided to be fair and give her another chance, and thankfully I discovered that in this book, "Missing You", she is at her best again.
Sean is devastated when his wife, Belle, tells him she has met someone else and she wants to end their marriage. He's a nice guy who tries hard to please his wife but she never seems happy with what she's got. Fen works in a second hand bookshop and looks after her son, Connor, who has cerebral palsy. She is haunted by a secret she has kept since she was a teenager, and leads a very isolated life which is dedicated to her son. Through a mutual friend, Sean finds out that Fen is looking for a lodger and he decides to move in until he gets things sorted in his personal life. He also has a daughter, Amy, who comes to stay at weekends, and gets on well with Fen's son. The longer they live together, the more their affection for one another grows, and they soon find themselves falling for each other. But, will Sean's wife throw a spanner in the works, and will Fen's secret allow her to open up and let Sean into her life? Well to find out, you'll have to read it of course!
The two main characters in this book are very likeable, although I found myself warming to Fen initially more than Sean. This could be because I'm a woman and so naturally found it easier to empathise with her, but I think Sean's character takes a little time to develop and I wasn't sure what to make of him at first. The book is written in the third person, but it switches between Sean and Fen in alternating chapters, which allows us to get to know what is going on in the mind of each character, and stops us "taking sides" with either character as the story develops.
I enjoyed the way the characters are awkward in their living arrangements at first, it's not all love at first sight or instant attraction here, but simply two people who get along rather well, looking at each other in a different light. They also have their own passions and interests, with Sean loving his music and having an interest in architecture through his job, and Fen watches old movies and enjoys sewing with her make do and mend attitude. This brings reality to the characters, as I hate it when characters have no life other than serving the purpose in a novel.
Both characters are insecure in their own way. Fen is finding it difficult to believe Sean would ever fall for someone like her, and Sean finds it difficult to express his feelings, which is one of the reasons his marriage broke down. It's interesting to see how insecurities can impact upon a relationship, when couples try to guess what the other is thinking. It also made me warm to the characters as I could see things from both viewpoints, and it shows how easy it is for major misunderstandings to occur either through lack of communication, or other people making throwaway comments.
The setting of this book is in Bath and the surrounding areas, and although it's not a part of the world I am overly familiar with, I found it painted a great picture of British life in general, and this made me relate to it more. Louise Douglas has an excellent ability to paint a visual picture through her descriptions, and she uses wonderful imagery to bring scenes to life. I especially love the scenes in the bookshop, where I could picture the musty shelves, threadbare carpets and the tea breaks with her elderly boss where they drink from their own character mugs. She also uses the time of year as a great way to set the scene, noticing seasonal details such as the early September sunshine, or the crowds of shoppers in the run up to Christmas.
The attention to detail is one of the things I love about Louise Douglas' work. She describes things in enough detail to be able to imagine it yourself, but without boring the reader with unnecessary waffle. An example of this is early in the book when Fen has a migraine, and instead of just saying she has a migraine, the author writes "The migraine that has been hovering just outside Fen's field of vision all morning finally swoops in for the kill just before lunch"
I found the pace of this book really nice, in a gentle but engaging way. It wasn't particularly fast-paced or action-packed, but I was enjoying the characters and descriptive elements so much it didn't really matter. The story develops at a nice pace, and I found myself absorbed in the book each time I picked it up. Some elements of the story are a bit predictable, for example I had guessed Fen's "secret" very early in the book, but this didn't matter as I was still interested to see how she would deal with it and what the outcome would be.
There are other characters who each bring something to this book. The children, Connor and Amy, have a part to play by affecting the decisions made by Sean and Fen, who are constantly striving to do the right thing for their kids as well as making themselves happy. Lina is the mutual friend of Sean and Fen, she doesn't feature much but is responsible for bringing them together. Fen's sister, who is pregnant at the beginning of the book, and Sean's wife Belle, all feature throughout the story to help it to develop just when I started to wonder if it was actually going anywhere. The ending of the book, without giving too much away, is pleasing and very well delivered. The author acknowledges that true love never runs smoothly, and that not everyone falls into the conventional "marriage and 2.4 children" category.
As you can probably guess, I really enjoyed this book, and would highly recommend it. I am tempted to read it again at some point in the future, mainly for the descriptive aspects of Louise Douglas' work, which are outstanding. I don't usually read the same book twice, as life is too short, but for this I might make an exception.
(Review may also appear on Ciao under the username Gingerkitty)
Summary: One I would read again