15/07/2007

Greater Love (by Lucy Wadham)

'Greater Love' is the first book I've read by Lucy Wadham. I wasn't quite sure what to expect with a dark front cover and arty picture, but it turned out to be an interesting novel.

It's the story of Aisha, told from her perspective as an adult. The book opens and closes as she nurses a baby, and discusses with her husband whether to return to her village in Portugal for her mother's funeral.

The rest of the book recounts her life, beginning right at the start with her conception. This is a violent and unexpected event which causes her mother to be bitter and unloving, and begins the painful pattern of Aisha's childhood and that of her twin brother Jose. Jose, for various reasons, is an outcast from a young age, cared for only by his sister and a teacher they learn to respect. So when Aisha decides to escape from her life and go to Paris for a while, Jose feels abandoned.

That's the start, anyway, of a book that took me a week to read, despite being less than 300 pages. The writing is excellent, evocative and sensitive; the story moves at a good pace, the people and places are all believable. But I didn't feel that I needed to find out what was happening at every moment. It's a book to think about, and even to learn from. The horrors of September 11th 2001 are significant to Aisha, since Jose becomes friendly with some Muslims; the point is made, without any preaching, that many people of this religion are peace-loving and gentle.

There's violence in the book, at times shocking, but it's not over-done or gory in any way. More important are the principles represented by the actions - trust and infidelity, love and anger, health and sickness. Aisha goes through many stages during the story, as daughter, sister, nanny, lover, friend, and eventually learns acceptance and unconditional love.

There are strong themes of forgiveness, of redemption, and of the vital need for communication within families. Aisha learns a great deal about herself and her past, sees mistakes she made as a child and young adult in perspective. Eventually she is able to let go of her past and move forward to be a good mother herself, despite not having had a good mother as a child.

Recommended, although it does not appear to be available in the USA.

(My slightly longer review of 'Greater Love' is now up at The Bookbag site).

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