12/03/2012

Foreign Fruit (by Jojo Moyes)

I've previously read and enjoyed two novels by Jojo Moyes, so put a couple more on my wishlist. It took me nearly a year to start reading this one...

'Foreign Fruit' (which apparently is known as 'Windfallen' in the US, rather confusingly) is a two-part story. At the start, set I suppose in the 1950s, we meet Lottie, who was once an evacuee. She is now back with the Holden family for her teenage years. Mrs Holden is a bit overbearing, Dr Holden genial - and a little creepy - and two young children rather annoying. However, Celia is close to Lottie in age, and they are good friends.

Against the wishes of Celia's parents, the girls explore and become friendly with some 'bohemian' artists, rather scandalous people for the time, who live in a large house called Arcadia. Lottie learns to question some of her beliefs and values, but eventually their involvement is too much for the family and Celia is sent away. She returns with London gloss, engaged to a young man called Guy. And Lottie falls for him in a big way.

There's a vast number of characters in the book, or so it seemed to me. We meet, briefly, people in the village, visitors to Arcadia, and more. Celia's younger siblings seem almost irrelevant to the plot, and I never did get a grasp of who most of the other minor characters were. In a sense it didn't matter, but it made it rather hard to concentrate sometimes, as I kept wanting to flick back to find out who was whom.

I was just getting interested in the story, around half-way through the book, when it switched abruptly to a different set of characters, fifty years later. Now we meet Daisy, a single mother with a young baby, who agrees to take charge of renovating an old house. Unsurprisingly, it turns out to be an empty Arcadia. Not only does Daisy have to deal with her hormones, and her annoyance with her vanished partner; she has a grumpy boss who doesn't think she's up to the job, and some unpleasant objectors in the village who do not want to see Arcadia turned into a hotel.

I realised that there were going to be some connections with the people in the first half of the book; at least, I realised it logically. It felt as if I had somehow picked up a different book altogether - perhaps a sequel. I was so dazed by all the different names and people that I didn't spot the obvious connection until it was revealed quite a way through... and by that stage I'd almost forgotten what the first part of the story was about.

It probably didn't help that I've been reading 'Foreign Fruit' over the past three weeks, just a chapter or two each night. Not feeling involved with it, I didn't feel any inclination to keep reading, or to pick it up during the daytime. However, I finally finished the last hundred or so pages yesterday. Reading in one block, I found it did make more sense. The intertwining of past and present works well, the writing is good, sometimes evocative, and the ending is encouraging. However there was then a brief epilogue which left me confused once more; perhaps it was too subtle.

On the whole I liked the book, but never felt really involved with any of the characters. I didn't find myself particularly moved by any of it, but perhaps it would have worked better if I had read it in a shorter space of time.

Recommended in a low-key kind of way; it would make good holiday reading as it's easy to put down, doesn't require much brain-power (other than trying to work out who is who) and has a satisfactory conclusion.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 12th March 2012

1 comment:

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