Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Emma's Review: We'll Always Have Paris by Sue Watson

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

Does first love deserve a second chance?

When she was almost seventeen, Rosie Draper locked eyes with a charismatic student called Peter during their first week at art college, changing the course of her life forever. Now, on the cusp of sixty-five and recently widowed, Rosie is slowly coming to terms with a new future. And after a chance encounter with Peter, forty-seven years later, they both begin to wonder 'what if'...

Amazon links: Kindle 

The title and cover both suggest that We’ll Always have Paris is very different from the two books I have previously read by Sue Watson. Both of these books were Christmas themed with snappy, frivolous titles with suitably glitzy, colourful covers to match, this cover is much more muted and suggests Sue Watson has taken a different route with her writing venturing into the more serious end of the women’s fiction genre. That’s not to say she has lost the humour much in evidence in her previous books. No it is here but not in abundance but just sprinkled throughout at the time when needed the most to lighten the particular scene or just bring some light relief when our main protaganist Rosie feels like everything is getting a bit too much and the world is against her. 

This book is not all doom and gloom far from it but there is definitely more depth and substance than in previous books from this author and the whole issue is dealt with sensitivity and tact as Rosie goes on a journey back to find herself and the one who got away. It’s nice to see an author moving out of their comfort zone into unknown territory for them anyway. With this book you could sense Sue Watson challenged herself and in doing so wrote a story that gives plenty of food for thought and no matter if you nearer in age to Rosie who is 64 or nearer to her daughters age there is something for everybody here. We’ll Always have Paris will make you stop and think what would I do if I was placed in this situation and is it true that it’s never too late for a second chance at first love?

We’ll Always have Paris is a heartwarming book that gives you hope and I flew through it an afternoon. The story had such a great flow and feeling to it and just as Rosie’s decisions and relationship start taking affect the story moves along nicely throughout her journey. I do have to say the prologue was very moving and powerful and really set the tone not for the overall book but for where Rosie’s head and mind were and how difficult she finds it to move on. Rosie has been married for 46 years to Mike and although not her first love and the one who has claimed and retained a small space in her mind for so many years theirs was a happy marriage as they ran a florist shop and had two daughters Anna and Isobel. Now their lives have been torn apart as Mike has been diagnosed with cancer and has not long to live. Everything has stopped for Rosie to devote the time to her husband when he needs her the most. She is attentive to his needs and wishes he would not suffer. ’I want him to take my love with him, wherever he’s going. I want to send him off feeling loved’. This prologue despite being brief in its length was brilliantly written and captured that painful moment to perfection. It hit me right where it mattered straight to the heart. 

One year on and Rosie is seeing a glimmer of her old self starting to re-emerge. She has been lost and in pain almost in silence not wanting to show her daughters just how much she has been hurting. She wants to be strong for them but it’s not easy letting go of the past and moving forward into the future solo when there has been a partner by your side for so long. ’I need to know what will be the next page in my story.. are there any pages left?’. Corinne - Rosie’s best friend, who herself is always out on dates, wants her to get back in the game and find a new man. But for Rosie that’s one step at a time and the first of those is returning to the florist shop where Anna needs her help. That is the catalyst for change in this book as a huge order for a wedding sees Rosie by chance bump into the man who broke her heart into a million pieces at just 17, that man being Peter Moreton.

To understand just what an impact this meeting has after so many years apart we learn how Rosie and Peter went to art college together and fell in love, Rosie more so than Peter maybe. She believed theirs was a love that would always last and they would be together forever. But he left and never came back and in doing so left behind a girl heartbroken and shattered and deeply angry at being abandoned and the particular situation she found herself in. From the moment they reconnected you could see that flame reignited in Rosie and she wants to experience that happiness and love again but yet there is a bitter side there angry at Peter for leaving. Rosie was clearly torn in two and I felt she had every right to be. There are lots of side to the story to be explored and assessed before the reader can make any judgments on any of the characters and I never fully formulated a strong opinion either way until right near the very end. 

If I was to judge on first meeting Peter I felt he was selfish and only into himself that he left Rosie all those years ago considering what he had told her. Now that he has lived the majority of his life what gives him the right now that he is single once again to think I can now have Rosie and find happiness? Surely he could have coming looking for her at some stage in the past. Those were my initial thoughts and then as the story grew and developed like Rosie you find yourself letting your guard down and coming to some form of acceptance that the past is in the past and we must move forward in the future. Peter and Rosie easily slipped back into that connection they shared all those years ago but the reader does wonder was Rosie rushing into things fearful she would never feel the same as she did with Peter for all those years ago? As the tagline suggests can it ever be too late to experience first love once again?

I was happy for Rosie that she was navigating this new world and that she felt able to bury the hurt and resentment that had been eating her up ever so slightly. Another issue she had to deal with was her daughters and honestly I could see Anna points so well, they were valid and only natural for someone placed in that position. She was only looking out for her mother and didn’t want to see her get hurt. Yet at the same time she is still grieving for her father and maybe she thinks Rosie is moving on too quickly not that she wouldn’t be happy for her mum but to see such change so rapidly after everything familiar to her in her family life is gone must be difficult and upsetting for anyone. Rosie handled the situation to perfection and she understands herself despite what anyone else may think now is the time to take risks and make decisions for yourself. Although there may be hurt along the way no one ever said life is easy and we must always take the rough with the smooth as the good times may often outweigh the bad. ‘I feel like everything happened for a reason and though things don’t always make sense to us at the time we sometimes realise that we are meant to be’. For too long Rosie has always been torn between the wishes, needs and demands of others now it is her time to go out into the world and find herself and shine and if love works itself out than all the better.

Initially I did think would I enjoy this book as Rosie is much older than I am, and sometimes it can be hard to relate to an older character, but thankfully this wasn’t the case at all. Rosie is so well written you forget what age she is and just absorb all that she is feeling and thinking and follow her on her journey as she rejuvinates herself and does what she wants on her own terms. All aspects of the story were so well written with characters that you root deeply for hoping that they will all find their happy ending, I particularly liked how Isobel found resolution and peace. This story is inspirational and a real treat to discover. I hope in the future the author will continue to write more books in this more serious nature alongside the fun books she has written in the past. Do set aside a couple of hours to sit, relax and enjoy this heartwarming, charming read.

Many thanks to Little Brown Book Group UK for my copy of We’ll Always have Paris to review via NetGalley and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.

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