22/12/2007

Pastures New (by Julia Williams)

The author Julia Williams was new to me. This book looked appealing, though - an attractive cover, mostly white.

Amy, the main character in this novel, lost the love of her life a couple of years before the story begins. She has finally decided to move from London to a small town in the countryside with her young son Josh. She hopes to work in gardening, having just completed a relevant course. There are allotments near her house, and she quickly makes friends with other people in the neighbourhood.

There's also an attractive man, Ben, who bursts into Amy's life and seems to cause stress every time they meet. Evidently, from the start, they were going to end up together. And there's Mary, Josh's grandmother, who lives in London and has been very close to Amy. She is hurt that they are planning to move.

The book charts the next year or so, involving misunderstandings, pettiness, squabbles, and also growing friendships and love. There are several subplots involving various different people which kept the story moving along at a good pace. I thought it was well-planned, with plenty of interesting characters. I read this longish book (just over 500 pages) in three evenings at a busy time of year. I wanted to know how situations would be resolved, and how Ben and Amy would finally get together.

Somehow, though, this novel didn't move me. In the early pages of the book I was mildly irritated by being given lots of background detail about each new person as they were introduced, rather than getting to know them along with Amy. I didn't need the general information, and didn't remember any of it anyway. I also felt that some of the conversations were a bit stilted, filling space rather than going anywhere with either plot or character development.

Nor did I feel emotional attachment to any of the characters, even Amy. I like to root for people in novels when they're unhappy, and rejoice with them when things go well. That didn't happen at all in 'Pastures New'. I felt intellectual satisfaction when various issues were resolved, but no emotion.

Still, if you enjoy light fiction, this is a pleasant enough story with plenty of human interest. It helped me de-stress at the end busy days, but I never stayed up later than I intended to, or lay in bed worrying about the characters. Nor did I gravitate to the book during the daytime when I was busy doing other things.

Recommended in a low-key way, although it does not appear to be available in the USA as yet. I shall be interested in this writer's future novels.

(My slightly longer review of Pastures New is at The Bookbag site)

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