Sunday, 24 February 2013

Books Read: Patricia Scanlan - With All My Love

On a crystal clear Mediterranean day, Briony McAllister sits playing with her four-year-old daughter, Katie, while she waits for her mother, Valerie, to join them. Valerie has recently moved to a picturesque town in southern Spain to finally leave behind her turbulent past and find a peace that has always eluded her. Briony has no idea that in a few moments' time her relationship with her mother will change irrevocably. As Katie plays, Briony pulls from her bag an old photo album, found in a box in her mother's new home. As she begins to study the faded photos, a letter falls to the ground. It is addressed to her.

My Darling Briony, it begins. As Briony reads the words with mounting shock, realisation dawns. Her mother lied to her about what happened with her beloved grandmother Tessa all those years ago - and denied Briony that most precious of relationships, the type of relationship Valerie now enjoys with Katie.

The lives of three generations of women are set to change forever as the past is revisited and the truth unfolds through the undelivered letters Tessa wrote to Briony over the years. Secrets, lies, betrayals and sacrifices - the complex bonds between mothers, daughters and granddaughters are intricately explored as Patricia Scanlan takes us into the hearts and homes of a family at war.

In Patricia Scanlan’s latest book, With All My Love, we meet three generations of women, Tessa, Valerie and Briony, whose lives could have been so different except that they’ve been affected by events of the past.  Can the past finally be put behind them to enable them to move on with their lives?

When Briony McAllister offers to help her mother Valerie settle into her new holiday home in Spain, little does she know of the volcano that’s about to erupt when she discovers a letter addressed to her amongst a box of old photo albums.  The letter was written to her by her paternal grandmother, Tessa, who she’s not seen since she was a young child, about her own daughter Katie’s age.

Feeling angry and confused, Briony is upset that her own mother has prevented her from having a loving relationship with her paternal grandparents Lorcan and Tessa so storms out to spend some time on her own to think.

Tessa had never wanted to cut the apron springs to her youngest son Jeff so she found it hard to accept that she was no longer the number one woman in his life, when he met and fell in love with Valerie, so did everything she could to try and tear them apart.  But in the long run she only hurt herself when Valerie left town with young Briony never to return again.

Valerie cannot believe that the letter has re-surfaced after all of these years and cannot believe she’d been so careless to not get rid of it when it had first arrived.   The letter brings back a lot of memories, both good and bad, for her of when she first fell in love with Jeff, the reactions of both families when they announced her pregnancy, as well as the events that led to her cutting off all contact with Jeff’s family.  Valerie tries to explain everything to Briony but will she understand why Valerie did what she felt she had to?

The story weaves back and forth from the present day to the past to give us readers an understanding of how the family dynamics have changed over the generations.  Can fences finally be mended after all of this time?

Patricia Scanlan has once again written a heart-warming family story exploring deep buried family secrets, betrayal, forgiveness but most of all about the importance of family love.  With All My Love will make an excellent Mother’s Day present for the important women in your life.

I'd like to thank Ally at Simon & Schuster UK for sending me a proof copy of this book to review.

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