Precious Time (by Erica James)

It’s many years since I first read Erica James’ novel ‘Precious Time’. All I remembered about the story was that a young woman and her four-year-old son take some time to travel in a motorhome before the little boy starts school. I also remembered loving the book, counting it as one of my favourites. And thus was a tad reluctant to read it again, since my tastes sometimes change and I wondered if I would find it less enthralling.

I’m delighted to report that I enjoyed it every bit as much on re-reading. It took me a little while to get into it; we first meet Clara, a businesswoman whose son Ned is not happy at his nursery school. She realises how important it is to spend time together while he’s young, and so she buys a second-hand motorhome. Her friends think she’s crazy, but Ned is delighted.

We also meet Gabriel, a cranky, elderly man who lives on his own in a huge house. His son Jonah buys groceries for him but tries to avoid seeing him as they always end up fighting. Jonah has an older brother, Caspar, who is clearly a self-centered and unpleasant character; Caspar’s twin sister Jasmine is in a healing community of some kind, and has not been seen by any of the family for some time. Caspar wants his father to sell the house and pass the money on to his offspring, and Gabriel is determined to stay. However, he lives in squalor and does not look after himself.

We also meet Archie, a second-hand shop owner whose mother has had a stroke and has come to live with him. Archie’s wife has just left him.

It quickly becomes apparent that Gabriel and Archie live in the same village, as they visit the same cafe for lunch and meet the same doctor… and fairly obvious that Clara and Ned will arrive at the same place. How it all happens, however, and the interactions between these very different people, make for a captivating novel.

Erica James has quite a gift for characterisation, and this is shown more than ever in this book. Ned is the most delightful child, full of both curiosity and affection. He’s trusting, and sensitive, and Clara, in general a strong-minded woman with minimal tact, deals with him very well. Gabriel is also well drawn; perhaps a tad caricatured, but he responds positively to people who pique his interest. His transformation forms an important part of the story, as we learn why he has become such a recluse.

I felt as if I knew all these people when I was a few chapters into the book, and by the time I was about half way through I could barely put it down. Several important issues are touched upon, and there are some quite poignant moments. It’s not a strong plot as such, and I’d forgotten most of the storylines entirely, which made it all the more enjoyable to re-read.

Very highly recommended to anyone who likes women’s fiction which isn’t too fluffy and which has a mixture of interesting characters.

Review copyright 2017 Sue's Book Reviews

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