Till We Meet Again (by Lesley Pearse)

I don't think I've ever before read a novel by Lesley Pearse. I'm pretty sure I have her novel 'Remember Me' - but have never read it, and may even have moved it to our guest accommodation, assuming it was a light 1950s saga.

That's what I thought about 'Till we meet again', a book which arrived on my to-be-read bookshelf, although I don't remember at all where it came from. Perhaps a friend passed it on to me. It's been there for a while, as I'm not really into mid-20th-century fiction; however, a couple of weeks ago I thought it would be an undemanding, comfortable read for bedtimes.

I was wrong. I see that other covers, such as the current Amazon one, portray this as a somewhat disturbing contemporary novel but my edition shows two children smelling flowers on a pastel purple background:

So I was completely unprepared for the high drama of the first chapter: a woman, thought to be homeless, rushes into a medical centre and guns down both the receptionist and a doctor.

Naturally, the woman - Susan Fellows - has a reason for her unexpected crime. And it does seem to be entirely out-of-character. Beth, the lawyer initially assigned to the case, turns out to be an old childhood friend of hers, and remembers wonderful summers of talking, and exploring, and encouraging each other. Beth has a reputation for being rather unemotional and cold, but meeting Susan again after all these years proves to be the catalyst for some exploration into her past that (predictably, and happily) leads to healing.

However, Beth's story runs alongside Susan's, and we gradually get to know them both, seeing why each was lonely as a child and then understanding more of what made Susan the person she has become. While Beth's story is positive and uplifting, on the whole, Susan's is not - and I found it rather depressing.  The author has attempted to show that circumstances and accidents can turn even the nicest of people into criminals - yet I never quite believed in Susan. I could see the logic in the choices she made, and the way her life unfolded, but when she eventually agrees to talk fully about her past, it didn't quite ring true.

I found the writing rather long-winded and somewhat repetitive, with too much 'telling' rather than 'showing'. The passages of time feel a little awkward, and while Beth's character is complex and real, the two main men in the book - Steven and Roy - are rather too good to be true, and the villains (particularly Susan's brother) are so nasty as to be even more unreal.

Towards the end I found myself reading more at a time, wondering what the outcome would be, and also wanting to get to the end. I was a bit disturbed by some of the graphic scenes towards the end, which left me feeling uncomfortable, and which felt out of place in this book - but perhaps I'm thinking of the pretty, pastel cover again.

Not a bad story, but not one I'm likely to read again.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 23rd July 2012

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