Monday, 30 September 2019

Emma's Review: Postscript by Cecelia Ahern

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

It's been seven years since Holly Kennedy's husband died – six since she read his final letter, urging Holly to find the courage to forge a new life.

She’s proud of all the ways in which she has grown and evolved. But when a group inspired by Gerry's letters, calling themselves the PS, I Love You Club, approaches Holly asking for help, she finds herself drawn back into a world that she worked so hard to leave behind.

Reluctantly, Holly begins a relationship with the club, even as their friendship threatens to destroy the peace she believes she has achieved. As each of these people calls upon Holly to help them leave something meaningful behind for their loved ones, Holly will embark on a remarkable journey – one that will challenge her to ask whether embracing the future means betraying the past, and what it means to love someone forever…

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Many thanks to Harper Collins Ireland for my copy of Postscript to review and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.

Fifteen years after the publication of P.S I Love You Cecelia Ahern returns to the character which first brought her to our attention and into the spotlight where she has remained ever since. I always remember all those years ago when it was first published, spending an afternoon curled up on my college room bed, skipping lectures and devouring the story of Holly Kennedy and how she was left notes by her husband in the wake of his death. It was an absorbing and brilliantly written story that captured the hearts and minds of so many. When news emerged that Cecelia was returning to this character all these years later my first reaction and I'm sure it was the same as many other long time fans was this is brilliant I can't wait to get my hands on it to read it. But then given time to think about it I wondered and, dare I say it, apprehension began to creep in. Would Postscript live up to the big shoes it undoubtedly had to fill? Would the same magic that captivated us all previously be there once again? Or should the character have been left the way we last saw her? Would all my expectations be reached?

Now having read Postscript, a book I really should have devoured in one sitting, instead I stretched it out for as long as possible savouring every word and sentiment, I can safely say Cecelia Ahern has more than done herself justice and written a phenomenal story that hits you right at the centre of your heart leaving you an emotional wreck on more than one occasion. Make sure to have the tissues close by. Postscript is an utter triumph and waiting so long to write the sequel instead of it being her second book or even earlier subsequent books was totally right the decision.

The author who wrote P.S I Love You is a vastly different person from the one who wrote Postscript as are her readers and I think this story reflects this. Had it been written fourteen years ago I think we would have gotten a very different story but patience is a virtue and in this case time and patience paid off. I myself have experienced grief in the time since I first read P.S I Love You. A grief very close to home and I know it has altered how I perceived this book had I not experienced the trauma of losing a close loved one. Time and time again I found myself nodding along with lines or entire paragraphs and I felt as if they were written for me. Postscript is a balm to the soul, a comfort, an advisor, a support and the hand you need to hold you when times are very tough and you can't see the light.

In the end section where there is a question and answer page Cecelia mentions that this new story is familiar and in tune with the first book but she wanted to bring it forward to the writer she is now. She did this with ease, never once losing the feelings, emotions and sentiments expressed previously. Holly, our main character, is in a different place now but the past comes calling and even thought she may not think it, it is perhaps the final piece of the puzzle she needed in order to seek ultimate resolution. Cecelia also mentions how it was an emotional challenge to write this book having a lump in her throat and tears in her eyes as she wrote every word. I can see how this was the case as I felt the same numerous times over at certain stages in the book. You can tell such thought, care and attention was put into the story overall as a whole and each word was so carefully chosen and placed as to achieve maximum impact and effect but not in a hard hitting and destructive way instead these are words of hope, advice and peace. A story has been written that so many readers will take such inspiration from with such memorable characters and a real life affirming message.

It's seven years since the death of her beloved Gerry and Holly Kennedy has clawed her way back from deep below the surface. The monthly pre-written notes with words of encouragement left behind by Gerry ceased after a year. Now Holly has been with Gabriel, a tree surgeon with a teenage daughter called Ava, for two years and life continues on. She works in the vintage shop run by her sister Ciara sorting through all the clothes that come in and prepares them ready for display in the shop. She is still best friends with Sharon who is married and deep in the depths of rearing young boys. So when Holly agrees to participate in Ciara's podcast and to talk about Gerry, his death and what legacy he left for her little does she realise everything she presumed she had put to bed will once again come rushing to the fore. Conversations about death are awkward and never fully explored as grief is a different journey for everyone as you can't control grief rather it controls you.

Holly believed she had come through the worst time in her life but as she talks about her experiences a group of people are inspired by what they hear. They set up the P.S I Love You club in the hopes they can do for their families what Gerry did for Holly. The group members all share something in common and as you hear their stories you become distraught at what lies ahead for them but there is a positive aspect in what they want to achieve with the time they have left. They want Holly to come onside, to help them achieve their goals and leave something meaningful behind but can Holly go back to a place she thought she had left behind? Is it worth stirring up old memories and emotions? Holly in the past felt like she lost her sense of self and that she had to rebuild but will accepting what the club wants her to do just bring her crashing back or will it be a positive step in the right direction?

For the majority of the novel Holly battles with her decision as to whether to help the group or not. It was like there was this reluctance to take part and help out, I couldn't understand this knowing what solace it could have brought so many people. Was Holly being selfish for fear of what it would stir up once again in her own personal life? But surely Angela, Ginika and the others could see what a wonderful person Holly was and what she could achieve and wouldn't have asked her if they felt she wasn't the person for the job. Perhaps Holly felt she would be going backwards and relieving the entire event once again but maybe in order to move forwards we must go back to the past and find the resolution that up until now has so desperately eluded us. As Holly battles with her decision. and as a reader you firmly hope she will make the right one, she questions and explores the entire experiencing of losing Gerry and how she coped with it. What can she offer these people calling out for her help? Why was she the one chosen?

Cecelia brilliantly paints a picture of Holly experiencing more inner turmoil as she wrestles with making a decision and the subsequent results of said choice. Never at any stage did she shy away of writing exactly what death and grief does to us and I found so many lines so helpful and inspiring. At times the book could have felt a bit all too doom and gloom given the subject matter but thankfully this never occurred. Instead there is positivity and uplifting moments that although death is avoided, feared and the enemy, it is our inevitable fate and it will catch us but we can be courageous and valiant in the process. Holly at times frustrated me for her lack of just deciding and pondering over things but on reflection time is needed and as she becomes contemplative and reflective on her life so too does the reader. Postscript really makes you stop, think and take stock and to appreciate every fabulous word written in this remarkable and worthwhile book.

We all struggle with managing the past and the present but Postscript shows us it can be done. I loved how Holly's experience was flipped and she was put in Gerry's position in that she now has the ability and power to help others. Her continued journey was a powerful one and an excellent story that has you hooked from the first word until the last. It is a difficult read at times and you just have to let those emotions spill forth when the need arises. But Cecelia Ahern has proved she is a master storyteller having written an absorbing, affirmative, spellbinding, fantastic and extra ordinary story. One that you will relish and take so much from. Set aside plenty of time to get to know Holly again and travel with her as she embarks upon a journey that won't be forgotten in a long time.

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1 comment:

  1. Sorry first comment closed down on me. Am looking forward to reading this. Ps I love you is a stand out book for me that I will always remember reading. X