If You Go Away, Adele Parks, Headline Review, 2015
It seems appropriate, on Remembrance Sunday, to be reviewing a book set in the Great War. Vivian Foster is startled when war breaks out on her wedding day to Aubrey Owens. Elsewhere, the playwright Howard Henderson is a conscientious objector, having seen the horror of war first hand.
‘If You Go Away’ calls upon similar themes raised in Park’s 2014 novel ‘Spare Brides’ a real departure from her previous chick-lit novels. She proved that she was capable in fact commendable in writing historical fiction, and ‘If You Go Away' achieves the same effect with even more aplomb.
As soon as she is married, a marriage she quickly realizes while high in social status, is lacking in passion and excitement, her husband is off to war. Sent to the family’s residence in the country, Vivian quickly feels isolated and alone, and her days are brightened by a visit from Howard’s mother Enid. Although from contrasting backgrounds, they strike up a friendship which will lead to life-changing events, for both of them.
Vivian throws herself into country life, shocking the locals by donning men’s trousers and gardening, a joy to read and imagine. It is when she goes with Enid to visit Howard that she has a defining moment.
Howard is a proud man, despite the negative attentions of many on his refusal to fight for his country. He holds his head high and is a striking man, a conclusion Vivian has come to. The inevitable happens, but the first of several twists stuns and shocks the characters and the reader in quick succession.
Although the novel is slow to start, I found myself really getting into the characters, and reflecting on the fact that a hundred years later, war still happens – despite our best efforts. Essential reading