Grianan (by Alexandra Raife)

I started re-reading my Alexandra Raife books a few years ago, but for some reason had not continued until just recently, when I picked up this one again. I had almost forgotten the way she writes, giving descriptions without being over-wordy, creating fallible but believable people.

‘Grianan’, which I last read read early in 2002, is about a young woman called Sally. She’s getting over a broken relationship, and escapes to Grianan, a large stately home in Scotland run as a bed-and-breakfast by her aunt Janey. Before going there she stays in another family home on her own for a while, and gets to know some of the local people.

Sally doesn’t know what she’s going to do in the future, but she’s happy to put that on hold for a while as she helps her aunt and her staff with the busy summer holiday season. She has to confront some of her own insecurities and figure out what she wants from life, and the author handles the transition well. I found the latter half of the book immensely moving.

If I have a criticism, it’s the way in which people in this book - as in so many other modern novels - seem quite happy to jump into bed with relative strangers, based on a mutual attraction or sense of need, without any expectation of a long-lasting relationship. Perhaps this is common in some circles, although not something I’ve come across, but I find it quite disturbing that so many writers treat it as normal. Worse is that, in this book, an apparently casual affair involves someone who’s married to someone else… and the otherwise likeable characters really don’t care.

The ‘redemption’ in the latter half of the book, and the laudable decision made in the end almost make up for the first part, and made me very glad I continued reading rather than giving up - as I was tempted to do - after a hundred or so pages. It’s a good story, gently paced on the whole, with the right amount of characters so that I didn’t lose track of who was whom.

As with others of this author’s novels, there are minor characters who featured in earlier books; it didn’t matter that I’d forgotten about most of them, as their backstories aren’t important, and this book stands entirely alone. But I’m deliberately reading them in order, and hope to read others of her books in the next few months - interspersed, as ever, with others - so as to keep in touch with this likeable cast of people.

Unashamedly women’s fiction, this would probably appeal to people who enjoy books such as those by Rosamunde Pilcher or Maeve Binchy. Not currently in print in paperback, but now available for the Kindle as well as being fairly easy to find second-hand.

Review by copyright 2016 Sue's Book Reviews

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