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The Decision is the latest novel by Penny Vincenzi, often referred to as the "doyenne of the blockbuster". As a long time fan of her absorbing novels, I was keen to read The Decision and, hopefully, lose myself in it.
Opening in the 1950s, The Decision is the story of a love affair, marriage and divorce. Eliza Fullerton-Clark was one of the last debutantes, and her parents are keen for her to marry a rich man, but she is much more interested in her successful career in fashion. Matt Shaw is from a working class background, but has become very successful in the post-war property boom, and has his own company. Falling hopelessly in love, they both believe they have found true and lasting happiness.
Any fans of Vincenzi will know that this is a very bare synopsis. The story spans many years, and is very full and detailed. Not only that, but although Eliza and Matt are the main characters, there are many other important characters whose stories run alongside theirs. The characters lives are all interwoven, and while sometimes it is hard to see how they could connect, they are all drawn together at one point or another.
Penny Vincenzi really is a master storyteller, and The Decision is no different. The many characters and story threads are all crafted together so perfectly to paint a truly large and complex picture. She builds suspense very well - she allows her readers to start to suspect that something bad is about to happen, but never gives too much away. During the build up to such moments, we read short snippets from the characters involved in that particular storyline, and also from those on the periphery who become involved and who begin to suspect what we the readers are fearing will happen.
Vincenzi's characters are all very well written. There is a real mix of characters in The Decision, from all social classes, which were still very much in force in the 1950s and 1960s, although many of the younger generation were trying to break them down. Eliza is a great heroine, although perhaps slightly cliched, really determined not to be like all her friends who are only interested in making a good marriage. She is devoted to her work and later to her Matt's daughter, Emmie. Matt is a bit more complex, and varies from being the perfect leading man to being a bit of a villain. This makes him interesting to read about, as at times you think Eliza is lucky to have found him, but at others you want to scream at him.
My only quibble with The Decision was the ending, although to be honest I can't think how it could have ended better. The end solution was probably the best to be hoped for, but it felt a little rushed and also a bit middle of the road. There was no real shock or upset in it.
Like all Vincenzi's novels, The Decision is utterly absorbing. Various quotes on the dustjacket called it "indulgent" or likened it to a box of expensive chocolates - a real treat. Whenever I picked it up I could not be distracted from it. Unfortunately I was only able to read it at home, a doorstop sized hardback (750 pages) being a bit large to carry around in my bag. Mind you, the paperbacks of Vincenzi's books don't tend to be much more portable.
I loved The Decision. Although Vincenzi is an author whose novels I am happy to reread many times, it has been a while since I read a new one of hers and it was great to get really pulled into the story and not know what was going to happen next. While I wouldn't say it was my favourite of Vincenzi's novels (that title would go to No Angel, Something Dangerous or Windfall, all of which are set earlier than The Decision), it's certainly a very good one, and I prefer it to her novels set in the latter part of the twentieth century. Fans of Vincenzi will love it, and it would be a good introduction for anyone who hasn't yet had the pure pleasure of reading her work.
This review was originally published on www.curiousbookfans.co.uk, I recieved a copy of the novel from the publisher through Curious Book Fans.