"A Year and A Day" Isabelle Broom
Three different women.
Three intertwining love stories.
One unforgettable, timeless city.
This will be a good book to buy for friends this Christmas. Romantic, light, readable and ultimately heartwarming, it is a great read to enjoy in a winter's evening tucked up somewhere cosy.
"It all seems pretty simple to me. If two people care about each other, they should be together. It should be easy."
But can it ever be that simple? In this story we follow three women as they travel to Prague, each emotionally troubled and each wanting to rediscover love and happiness. Broom hides us away in their suitcases as we watch them journey through through these few days of their lives; sharing their fear, risks, friendships, hopes and love.
I have never been to Prague, but Broom's picturesque detail and beautiful description makes it sound like a perfect setting for a novel about love. In this story it is a city which represents warmth, comfort, happiness and hope. Our three female protagonists have all chosen to travel there for different reasons, but ultimately they are seeking answers and resolution. This ancient city with its beautiful architecture, mythical tales, statues and culture, offers the girls a perfect space in which to confront their internal conflicts.
One of our female protagonists, Megan, claims her first love is photography. She has travelled to Prague with Ollie, her best friend, to seek inspiration for her next collection. Her passion for taking photos is an effective metaphor in illustrating how Megan often sees the world - as "a snapshot of a moment, a memory saved forever, the view of the world as she saw it," and indeed Broom is exploring the concept of what we see - or what we don't see- versus what is actually happening.
Megan fights against a gradual realisation of her true feelings for Ollie. But Megan is frightened. To her love is a threat. To her it is imperative not to show Ollie the real her. To her, being in love can only lead to being hurt.
"With her ex, she had always been wary of saying the wrong thing, of upsetting the fragile shelf upon which their strange little relationship was precariously balanced."
Ollie is a hugely likeable man; kind, funny, supportive and interesting. The couple are very at ease with each other and their relationship is very natural. The reader likes them both and Broom does a good job of writing about their friendship and exploring that transition between friend to lover, or how to accept that being hurt once, won't mean you'll necessarily be hurt again.
Hope is another of our protagonists. She has a daughter, Annette, with whom she has a strained relationship.
"It was far less dramatic to jab a screen with your finger than smash plastic against plastic and hear that satisfying ring of enraged silence, but the result was still the same: she felt as if her heart was breaking into pieces."
She's on holiday with Charles - he is not her husband, but her "upgrade"! However, Hope's time in Prague is spent agonising over her damaged relationship with her daughter and reflecting on how well she actually knows Charles. Again, this is a woman who has been burned by love before and who needs to reconcile herself with her daughter before she can allow herself some happiness.
Finally comes Sophie, a younger girl who awaits the arrival of her fiancé. There is something a little mysterious about Sophie and a more mythical aura surrounds her as she meets with the other characters in the book. At first she seems very excited about travelling to Prague and seems to relish the opportunity for travel. However as the novel proceeds, the reader begins to worry about Sophie and whether she is narrator to be relied on or not. There's definitely a sense that Sophie is keeping something from us and her storyline injects a bit of intrigue and mystery.
"She'd known Prague wouldn't let her down. She had been silly to ever let the dark shadow of doubt cast it's nasty hunched shoulders across her mind."
Sophie awaits the arrival of Robin, her fiancé and spends a lot of time extolling his virtues. Her story is a slight contrast to the others as both Megan and Hope have a sense of being let down by men and having been too dependent on them. Both these women want to have some more independence. Both are reluctant to become dependent on men again, whereas Sophie seems incomplete without Robin and almost unable to operate without him. But ultimately, all of them want love.
So will they find what they are looking for in Prague? Will the magic golden cross, pointed out by a guide, which can grant a wish to come true in a year and a day work for them all? Will their wishes come true? Will the magic and myth of Prague bring them the hope and love they so need? Is love easy or is it an impossibility? What effect will this magical, christmassy city have on them?
This is a good read. It's reasonably predictable, but there are a few shots toward the end which add an emotional depth to the storyline and remind us of the complexities of people, love and relationships. Perfect winter romance!
"A Year and A Day" is published be Michael Joseph on 17th November 2016.
My thanks to NetGalley for an ARC of this book.
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