29/07/2011

Love Against All Odds (by Rosie Harris)

I hadn't previously heard of Rosie Harris, and might never have done so but for a friend who liked this book very much, and lent it to me.

'Love Against All Odds' is the story of Gaynor, who is fourteen when the book opens and lives in a small village in Wales. Her father is ambitious for hier, and does not want her to marry a manual worker... despite the fact that she is in love with Barri, one of his employees. So he persuades Barri to move away to Cardiff. Gaynor is heart-broken for a while, then falls for a good-looking German; her father approves as he seems to be an intelligent young man, but for various reasons, things start to fall apart. Gaynor eventually moves to Cardiff too and loses touch with her parents...

The novel takes place over more than thirty years, during the early part of the 20th century. The First World War affects many of the people involved, as does later unrest in Europe although the latter is not explored much other than in conversation. The story works well in historical context, evidently well-researched. The author is clearly familiar with the places she writes about, too, although there is not much description. I could not picture anywhere in my mind, but that didn't matter. .

My biggest personal problem with this book is the characterisation is rather shallow, with far too much narrative for my tastes. Often it races through the years, without pausing for an opportunity to get to know the various people. Delightful children turn into moody teenagers without any apparent reason. Motives and emotions are attributed to them - and others - in ways that feel rather artificial. So I didn't have any emotional reaction to anybody in the book, despite there being various sub-plots that should have triggered some empathy.

However, I thought that the plot was interesting - sufficiently so that I read it at one sitting during a power cut. But the ending seemed too rapid, with forced and unlikely reunions and resolutions, even though it satisfactorily tied up various threads from the book.

This would be worth reading for those who like light novels that emphasise the social history of the period, but not so much for those who prefer character-driven emotive books.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 29th July 2011

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