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Alice Peterson is a British writer, who thought, as a child, that she would be a champion tennis player. She had been awarded a scholarship to train in the US when she learned that she had rheumatoid arthritis, a painful and debilitating chronic condition. While the pain is controllable by drugs, it meant that she had to give up her beloved tennis; she then turned to writing, and has now written several moving and poignant novels.
YOU, ME AND HIM - OVERVIEW
Josie and Finn's marriage has been going through a stressful time, although they very much love each other. It doesn't help that their six-year-old son George has been diagnosed with ADHD and is extremely difficult at times. They love him dearly, but their lives (particularly Josie's) have been disrupted since his birth.
Finn is a successful doctor. He's very good-looking, and also a great father who understands his young son well - but unfortunately he's often too busy to spend time with him. He is frequently late for family events, or finds that can't get to them at the last moment. This makes Josie become resentful which in turn leads to Finn becoming defensive.
There's another man in the picture, too. Clarky, Josie's childhood friend, lives nearby and is George's godfather. He's the first person Josie turns to when anything worries her, as he's sympathetic, caring and warm; at times she finds herself comparing Finn with him negatively, wondering if she should have married her best friend rather than the man she fell in love with. Finn and Clarky don't much like each other.
Although Finn is eager to have another baby, Josie - who deals with the brunt of George's problems - isn't sure at all. Then she discovers that she's pregnant, and panic sets in...
The book takes place over the nine months of Josie's pregnancy, with a lot of flashbacks to the past. These are mostly to the time when Josie and Clarky lived together in an entirely platonic friendship, and when she first met Finn. It's very well-written, with the glimpses into the past melding easily with the main narrative, and gradually building up more of a picture of the three-way relationship Josie is struggling with.
It's not often that I fall in love with a book within the first few pages, but it happened to me with this wonderful novel. The story is told in the first person by Josie, and I found myself relating to her strongly, right from the start. She is totally honest about her feelings, her worries for the future, her confused emotions when she thinks about her son, her anger with Finn and her reliance on Clarky. It's also clear that Finn's irritation with Clarky, which verges on jealousy at times, is actually quite reasonable.
I did wonder if there was going to be an 'agenda' to the book, pushing acceptance of ADHD, with lots of detail about possible causes and treatments. Clearly the author knows a great deal about this condition, but I thought she managed to avoid pushiness, while undoubtedly educating. George is a likeable, intelligent lad who knows that his brain doesn't work like other children's. We see him trying to behave, but unable to concentrate; forgetting what he has been told, throwing tantrums, fighting his way out of trouble - and being rejected and bullied by other children. We see the negative side of school for such children, with a most unpleasant class teacher, but thankfully she is balanced by an excellent new headmaster and a swimming teacher who recognises George for who he is, and helps him in ways he understands.
I certainly felt that I understood ADHD a bit better by the end of the book, but I didn't feel that the knowledge had been thrust down my throat, for which I'm thankful. I also saw how easy it is to deceive oneself by self-righteousness - both Josie and Finn do this at times - and how even a small lie can grow into immense proportions and threaten a relationship. So it wasn't the average light chick-lit; instead it was quite thought-provoking, often moving, and very satisfying to read.
My one slight complaint about the book is that there was rather more bad language than I'm comfortable with, and some of it seemed unnecessary. But that does seem to be a trend in modern books, and most people aren't worried by it. So I have no hesitation in awarding this book five stars and a strong recommendation for anyone - male or female - who likes modern novels with well-drawn characters, and a great deal of human interest.
PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
'You, Me and Him' was originally published in 2007 and is not currently in print as a paperback, although it can often be found in Amazon's Marketplace. However it has recently been produced in Kindle form, where it's currently selling at £4.27 from Amazon UK.
[Note: Review slightly adapted from one I originally wrote for thebookbag.co.uk, also on Ciao]
Nice simple reading. This was easy enough to read over the course of an afternoon curled up on the sofa. It is a story that might be close to quite a few people's hearts. When you have a best friend it can be easy for your partner to be jealous, when that friend is a person of the opposite sex; then it must be all the more difficult. Add in to the equation that one friend is actually in love with the other, the challenges increase.
A book that is very well written with lots of thoughtful moments. There are times when you just want to bang Josie and Finn's heads together and actually Clarky's for that matter. The characters are so well described by Alice Peterson that you really feel like you know them, which for me is exactly what you need in a book describing relationships and the emotions that go with them. This was a pleasure to read because of its simplicity, realism and honesty. An author I would enjoy reading more from.