Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Guest Book Review: Sarah Foot - Fragments

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

How do you know right from wrong when your certainties about life are slipping through your fingers? 

Phillip Snowe is a genius of the advertising world but what he can no longer do is sell himself to himself. Struggling to find meaning, he quits his career 'to give something back.' 

Julia, his wife, a brilliant and beautiful lawyer, fights her own demons, but with her intelligence and hard work, she believes she can keep them at bay. And so far she has. 

Into their lives comes Laura Cusack, a single mother torn between the demands of her young daughters and her own unfulfilled passions. 

Whose needs should you put first? Your family's? Your neighbour's? A complete stranger's? Or your own? And once you have made that choice, how do you live with yourself?

Spanning three generations, this compassionate and surprising story - touching profoundly upon love, art, religion and the search for fulfilment - grips from first to last as it explores the moral and emotional complexities of modern life.

Amazon links: Kindle or Hardcover 

Fragments by Sarah Foot is a book that will firmly divide people into two camps - those who adore it and those who are left wondering was that really it? I fall into the later camp. I finished this book weeks ago and still I am left with a feeling that it didn't quite live up to my expectations. I remember starting it and thinking this was going to be good, an insight into the workings of a modern day family and all the troubles they experience. I managed 80 pages and I had to leave it down, (which is very unusual for me) I came back to it several weeks later (wanting to give it a second chance) and still found the same problem. I couldn't race through this as is normal for me with a good book. In my opinion I found this to be heavy going. It required a lot of concentration as there was a lot of text on each page and if I glanced up for whatever reason I found my attention was gone and I couldn't get back into the story. I am glad I finished the book if only to find out the ending. But Fragments didn't grab my attention early on and it wouldn’t be my favourite read so far this year.

The book opens with a funeral, whose we do not know. I suppose that was one of the main reasons I kept going as I wanted to know who had died and in what circumstances. We flash back in time to the weeks leading up to this event and over 400 pages the story unfolds and we see how the characters arrived at this sad event. We have two main protagonists 45 year old Julia Snowe and 34 year old Laura Cusack, both polar opposites to each other but both dealing with the issues rearing a family can bring. Julia has been married to Philip for over 20 years and has two daughters Rose and Anna. They are at a crossroads in their lives as Philip has retired and sold his business but the power house that is Julia continues to work at a frantic pace as a lawyer. She is unwilling to give up any aspect of her hard-working lifestyle. Therefore Philip is beginning to feel increasingly isolated. He does charitable work and is governor of a local school and this is where he meets Laura.

Many people mightn't like Julia but I did, yes there were some things she did that I disagreed with but overall I thought she stuck to her guns and fought for what she wanted. She may have neglected Philip when he needed her or not noticed what was going on with her daughters right under her nose but what person is without their faults? Julia is business like and matter of fact, she wants solutions not problems and is not into moaning at all. Having come from a tough background herself she wants to succeed in life allowing no weakness or cracks to slip through her tough outer persona. Laura on the other hand I found to be weak and always complaining. She may not have complained out loud to the people who needed to hear it but she certainly did enough of this when contemplating her life. She is a single mum to twin girls Eliza and Alice. She is financially supported by her famous artist father but longs for independence to pursue her own art career. Laura annoyed me immensely. She was always whining and hadn't the guts to say no when people continuously took advantage of her asking her to do this, that and the other. Her mother Venetia was always ringing her asking her to do things. She could have easily just said no. To me Laura was too much under other people's thumbs and needed to strike out and become more independent and confident her life could have been so much easier.

At well over 100 pages new characters were still being introduced when this should have all been dealt with in the first few chapters so as not to confuse the reader. From Julia's sister Angela with adopted daughter Miela to a further in-depth storyline with Julia's daughter Anna and young girl Isabel West. There was too much going on and the author should have just concentrated on the two main women instead of stretching further story-lines some of which did nothing for the story. Laura's family had their own story as well which didn't allow Laura to get some courage and guts until towards the end. When she comes into contact with Philip at a meeting of the board of the school where Philip is governor Laura begins to change. A spark is ignited and he becomes very interested in her paintings using any excuse to visit her house on the pretext of purchasing some new art. To be honest this so called admiration for each other did not come across well in the pages. I felt Philip was just happy to get some sort of affection as Julia was too busy with the pressures of work. The way Laura reacts towards the end of the book was not justified for me as I didn't feel the 'love' she had for Philip was genuine.

Do we find out whose funeral the characters were attending and why? Well if you are interested in this than pick up Fragments but for me my interest was barely there towards the end.This novel is very complex (too much so for me) proving appearances are deceptive as you scratch beneath the layers there are a whole lot of issues waiting to be unearthed. If you like Joanna Trollope or Hilary Boyd then this book is for you. I don't think I am at that stage with my reading likes yet. Also there were too many mentions of religion. I felt it was too much and very one sided in the opinions being offered. Maybe in a few years time if I came back to Fragments I might enjoy it more but for now I would say it was well written but a bit too in-depth and hard going for me and not the best book to read by the pool this summer.

I'd like to thank Lauren at Quercus Books for sending Emma this book to review and Emma for her honest review.

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