Wednesday, 1 September 2010

The Last Time They Met

The Last Time They Met - Anita Shreve

I picked this one up for 10p from the community centre bookstall. I've had a bit of a mixed relationship with Anita Shreve books - adored Light on Snow and bought several more of hers on the strength of that one, but though I quite liked them I wasn't blown away. But for 10p you can't go wrong and I thought it would make a change from the historical fiction.

Well, I loved it. Really a very good read, and amazingly put together. It reads backwards - you start with the couple aged 52, go on to read a section when they are 27 and end with them at 17. (The only other novel I've read with this structure is Sarah Waters' Nightwatch, another brilliant book.)

It's a love story. Two writers meet at a conference in Toronto - they haven't seen each other for 24 years. They reminisce. They are clearly each others' soul mates, but somehow circumstances have kept them apart. The reader pieces together their past from their conversation. They get together, and it is so right, so perfect. Then we are with them the last time they met, aged 27, in Africa, both married to other people, but unable to keep apart from each other. And finally, we find out how they met, aged 17, at school.

Initially I was irritated by certain aspects of this book. The quirky punctuation around speech. The introspectiveness of the characters. And I wondered how on earth it could reach a satistfying end, when it was going backwards to what must be the beginning? But it all made perfect sense in the end, and I finished the book knowing it could not have been put together in any other way.

Thoroughly recommended, whether or not you're a fan of Shreve.

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