#BookReview Love After Love by Ingrid Persaud @FaberBooks

Love After LoveAbout the Book

Irrepressible Betty Ramdin, her shy son Solo and their marvellous lodger, Mr Chetan, form an unconventional household. Happy in their differences, they build a home together.

Home: the place keeping these three safe from an increasingly dangerous world – until the night when a glass of rum, a heart-to-heart and a terrible truth explodes the family unit, driving them apart.

Format: Paperback (410 pages)         Publisher: Faber
Publication date: 14th January 2021 Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Find Love After Love on Goodreads

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My Review

Winner of the Costa First Novel Award in 2020, Love After Love is the touching story of two rather lonely souls – Betty Ramdin and Mr Chetan, and Betty’s son Solo.  Betty is a widow who experienced violence during her marriage. Solo feels the absence of a father and is withdrawn and friendless. Mr Chetan has secrets of his own and longs to be part of family.  Through mutual affection and laughter, the three of them form a happy household unit. As Mr Chetan observes, ‘People have all kind of families’.  Unfortunately their amiable arrangement doesn’t last and Betty finds herself estranged from her son.

Over the course of several years, events in the lives of Betty, Solo and Mr Chetan encompass topics such as the plight of undocumented migrants in the United States, racial and sexual discrimination, and mental illness. The book explores whether a terrible act, even if carried out in order to protect another, can ever be forgiven and whether bonds which seem broken irrevocably can ever be mended.

The three characters are so well-drawn that it’s impossible not to feel both sympathy for – and, at times, frustration with – each of them as they face their different personal struggles, their disappointments and their shattered dreams. I found Mr Chetan’s story particularly affecting. I’ll admit to shedding tears at one point and silently begging the author, ‘No, you can’t do that!’  As Betty reflects, ‘We are forever getting more than we can bear. Always’.

Although it took me a while to adjust to the use of patois and the rhythm of the prose, it really brought the story alive and I enjoyed being introduced to Trinidadian idioms such as ‘I don’t want to put goat mouth on it’, ‘Every bread has its cheese’ or ‘Monkey know which tree to climb’.  (Sorry, you’ll have to look them up if you can’t work them out for yourself!) I also loved learning about the food, customs and culture of Trinidad.

Love After Love has been languishing in my TBR pile for several months and it was only because I needed a book to match a category in the What’s In A Name Challenge 2021 that I took it down from the bookshelf. I’m so glad I did. At times heart-warming and at others heart-breaking, I absolutely adored Love After Love and I can understand why it has garnered so much praise from readers.

In three words: Emotional, immersive, tender

Try something similar: This Lovely City by Louise Hare

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Ingrid PersaudAbout the Author

Born in Trinidad, Ingrid Persaud won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize in 2017 and the BBC National Short Story Award in 2018. She read law at the LSE and was an academic before studying fine art at Goldsmiths and Central Saint Martins. Her writing has appeared in Granta, Prospect, the Guardian, the Independent, National Geographic, Five Dials and Pree magazines. She lives in London. (Photo: Twitter profile)

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The Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction 2022: Some Longlist Contenders?

WalterScottPrizeThe deadline for publishers to submit books published in 2021 for The Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction 2022 is 23rd December 2021. The prize is open to novels written in English and published in 2021 in the UK, Ireland or the Commonwealth. Reflecting the subtitle ‘Sixty Years Since’ of Scott’s famous novel, Waverley, the majority of the storyline must take place at least 60 years ago.

Like other historical fiction fans, I shall be eagerly awaiting the announcement of the longlist in February 2022 and the shortlist the following month. As in previous years, I’ll try to read as many as possible of the longlisted novels that I haven’t read already and all those that make it on to the shortlist.

There have been some fantastic historical fiction novels published in 2021. Below are some I’ve read that I think might make the longlist, some books in my TBR pile which, judging from reviews, may well deserve a place, and a few others I don’t yet have copies of but which look like possible contenders for inclusion (subject in each case to them meeting all the eligibility criteria). Links from the titles will take you to my review or the book description on Goodreads.

Check back when the longlist is announced to see if any of my picks match the judges’ choices.


Books I read in 2021 

Books in my TBR pile

Books on my RADAR

Are any of your favourites on my list?  What other historical fiction novels published in 2021 do you think deserve to be on the longlist?