A Song for Tomorrow (by Alice Peterson)

Since I have enjoyed everything I have read so far by Alice Peterson, I keep watch for her new publications. I was delighted to see this one available recently and put it on my wish-list; I was given it for my recent birthday, and started reading it a few days ago.

‘A Song for Tomorrow’ begins with a journal-type prologue written by a young mother. She learns that her newborn baby, Alice, has the genetic condition called cystic fibrosis. This is a chronic lung disease which, at the time, meant that her daughter’s life expectancy was about ten years.

We then move forward twenty-six years to 1998, when the main part of the story begins. The two main characters are Alice, who has clearly outlived her initial prognosis, and Tom. Tom spots her as he’s walking past an art exhibition, and can’t get her out of his mind. The book mostly switches between their two viewpoints, told in the present tense, with occasional further journal entries by Alice’s mother.

Alice is an independently minded and determined young woman, aware that time is not on her side, but trying to make the most of every moment. We soon learn that she has to spend every day using nebulisers and taking drugs. She lives in a flat attached to her parents’ home because she’s unable to live by herself.

The descriptions are vivid without being overwhelming, but after a few chapters I found myself wondering how the author knew so much about cystic fibrosis. I knew that she had rheumatoid arthritis herself, and wondered if she had personal experience of this disease too. I skipped to the end of the book, expecting to read acknowledgements, and discovered that the novel is based on a true story: that of a young woman called Alice Martineau, who was passionate about music and wanted to be a singer, despite her illness.

Not wanting to know the entire story, I went back to the novel, with new interest in the storyline. Most of the names are changed, and some of the characters are entirely fictional. But the relationship with Tom, and with her parents, is, according to Alice’s real brother, pretty much true to reality.

The novel charts Alice’s determination not just to sing but to make an album of her music. She writes lyrics, many of which are given in the book. This plot runs alongside her deteriorating health, and some side stories involving her close friends, some of whom have the same illness.

Inevitably there are high points and low points; I soon realised what was going to happen in the end although I didn’t know how or why. It was written in a positive way, although it could be rather depressing for anyone suffering from cystic fibrosis, or with a family member with this condition.

The writing is excellent, the people realistic, including the fictional ones, and the conversations and events believable. All in all, I thought it a powerful and inspiring book and would recommend it highly.

Review copyright 2017 Sue's Book Reviews

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