Learning By Heart was another library pick, another one I was pleased to bring home and discover is written by someone, Elizabeth McGregor, who has consistently good reviews on Amazon.
This is the book that referred to glass blowers in Murano, is set half in Italy, has two time lines and is about love affairs and lost children across the years. It has also, just for the record, a family with four sisters and a younger brother, marriages in jeopardy and is in fact threaded with a theme of synchronicity, of people just happening to meet people and be in places at the right moment 😆 Oh, and it has a couple with a young son and infertility to go along with it. Oh yes, and it starts with a mourning parade on Good Friday. You have to laugh.
So, you know 😉
I was surprised by how much I was drawn in to this; although it is essentially a book with 2 female characters at the centre, they are relatively hard to know; the book captures both at a ‘moment’ in their life and both are a little adrift in a mess of life and emotions. The story is told more by the 3 men who love them, two husbands and a lover. The plot unravels more of their lives – infidelity, infertility, loss and grief, love and rejection – than it does of the women. It is quite refreshing in a way (and I recognised something of one of them too, which made it all the more compelling) and certainly a different take on a well established format. It was subtly done and all the people and places felt very real, even if it was just a snapshot of lives.
The book is, essentially, the story of Cora and Zeph, at turning points in their life. It follows Cora through her first move from home, the shocking reality of being a single young woman in London and then the change that a safe and ordinary marriage brings. Half of the book is the journal of a man who loved her and the descriptions of Sicily really made me want to pack up and go immediately. I’ve got a feeling Italy is telling me I need to visit. For Zepf, the book is about finding her courage when her marriage fails and finding out more about her mother and everything that was hidden from view in her life.
I’d give this 8/10. I’m not sure I would need to read it again, or own it, but I’ll certainly read more by the author and I don’t hesitate to recommend. A very enjoyable read.