Sunday, May 11

The Double Life of Anna Day - Louise Candlish

Just into her thirties, and having waited all that time for love, Anna's finally met the perfect guy. Charlie's warm, funny, faithful, employed, and they've been together just over a year. There's only one problem - his mother. Widowed just before Charlie and Anna met, and already estranged from her older son (he married a highly unsuitable Spanish woman), Charlie's waiting for the right time to tell Meredith about Anna. And though Anna set a deadline, Charlie's going to America for the summer. Which gives Anna three months to get to know Meredith on her own, three months to present an Anna prefect for Charlie, that Meredith will have to approve of. Anna's new, secret deadline is Meredith's 60th birthday party - if she can get Meredith to invite her, introduce her to Charlie, then their relationship will have her seal of approval, and everything really will be perfect. As long as neither Meredith nor Charlie find out.
This is an interesting approach to a well-explored field, and Candlish carries it off well. In contrast to many lesser contributors to the genre, she has created a strong and sympathetic heroine, three-dimensional supporting characters, a plausible secondary romance, and all the relationship hurdles and realistic and rooted in to the plot (rather than grafted on for the sake of having a hurdle). Within the context and set up of the plot there are no "but if you just said she was your niece" moments, and though I could see the twist near the end coming from a chapter or so ahead, it was believable that the heroine couldn't, and it still had power.
The Double Life of Anna Day is quintessentially English, particularly the articulation of class structure. Set in London, the outer London area of Dulwich, and Spain, and Candlish does a superb job of creating separate atmospheres and histories for each location without leaving the reader recovering from an info dump. This is the first of Candlish's novels that I've read, but I very much enjoyed it, and look forward to the next one, which is already waiting in my stack of library books. - Alex

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