What Became of you, my Love? (by Maeve Haran)

Browsing on bookshelves in the relatives’ house where I was staying, I was attracted by the cover of this book by Maeve Haran. I had not heard of this author before, and am always interested to try something new. The blurb suggested lightweight women’s fiction, which is exactly what I wanted while taking a break in the UK.

‘What became of you, my love?’ opens with a prologue in 1969. Stella, dressed rather flamboyantly, is the girlfriend of Cameron, an up-and-coming rock star. He’s recording a new song, ‘Don’t leave me in the morning’, and Stella is pretty sure it’s going to be a hit…

The book then moves forward to 2016. Stella is now in her mid-sixties, married to the somewhat grumpy and pedantic Matthew. They have a married daughter, Emma, and three grandchildren: the youngest, Ruby, was a bit of a surprise to all concerned. Emma is eager to return to work and expects Stella to babysit, but Stella has her own career, as a portrait painter for pets (mostly dogs).

In the middle of preparing a family meal, while Stella is chatting to her best friend Suze, the radio starts to play the song ‘Don’t leave me in the morning’. It was so popular that it turned into a kind of romantic anthem. To their surprise, the DJ introduces Cameron, who has lived in the United States for the past few decades, but is about to do a UK tour. They are then astounded when Cameron says he’s looking for the girl who inspired his most famous song, whose name was Stella…

The book is then a tapestry of storylines, nicely woven together. Inevitably Cameron and Stella meet again, along with Cameron’s manager Duncan (with whom Stella has a guilty secret). There are preparations for concerts, and an ecological thread too, as Stella and Suze make plans to save a local shopping area. There are problems in Stella’s marriage, and also in Emma’s… and a flamboyant self-centred dancer who turns out to have hidden depths.

My favourite subplots, however, were those that involved Stella’s teenage grandson Jesse, a delightful young man who feels caught in the many tensions that his family are displaying. I loved the relationship she has with her older grandchildren, as well as with the baby. Jesse and his eleven-year-old sister Izzy are quite outspoken but very believable, perhaps more so than some of the adults.

I liked Stella’s character very much, although I couldn’t relate to her very well; she’s much more motivated and proactive than I am. I liked Jessie and Izzy too, and one or two other significant people. However I found Suze to be a bit too bohemian and unreliable, Emma irritating, Matthew incomprehensible after the first few chapters, and Cameron self-centred and obnoxious.

Reading for perhaps half an hour or so each day, it was easy to keep track of the main storylines, but I did sometimes lose sight of who some of the minor characters were. I also felt that there were perhaps too many threads going along; they work well together, but everything happens remarkably fast, and the ending of the story is a tad too neatly done, without much exploration of the issues that were causing stress between Matthew and Stella.

Overall, it made a good light read. I quite like books that focus on people in their fifties and sixties,  as that's my age-group. But with such a mixture of generations it would probably appeal to younger fans of women’s literature too.

Review copyright 2017 Sue's Book Reviews

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