Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Ferney/The Lives She Left Behind

Mike Martin and his wife Gally are looking to make a fresh start in the country.  A diversion leads them to a hidden away cottage on the outskirts of a small village and Gally instantly knows this is where she is meant to be.  It is not long after their arrival that they meet an elderly man named Ferney, who immediately forms a bond with Gally and seems to know more about her than she does herself.   

Ferney has an interesting concept, but sadly the book itself was not my cup of tea.  James Long obviously has a vast knowledge (or did plenty of research) of the history of the area where Ferney is set and tries to put it all into the book.  While interesting at first, sometimes these historical revelations and retelling jarred and slowed the pace of the story down.  Rather than focusing on the characters and their development, it felt that Long was more interested in conveying his wealth of knowledge.

 My main problem with Ferney, however, was that I could not buy into the 'love story' that spanned many centuries, often thinking of poor Mike.  This man, who loved his wife, had already given up his dream job to keep her happy and was then paying for the renovation of the cottage, all the while being treated like he was inconsequential.  In turn Ferney and Gally came across as selfish individuals, who HAD to be together.  I kept asking myself why?  I couldn't find any evidence in the book and this further emphasised my animosity towards these characters.  Maybe I missed something?  Ferny wasn't terrible,  Long has a adept way of describing the bucolic surroundings and maybe with a bit of editing an easy to follow writing style, but it just wasn't for me.   

With that, I was not looking forward to reading the continuation of Ferney and Gally's story in The Lives She Left Behind.  However, I was surprised to find that the sequel was far superior. 

The Lives She Left Behind, Long introduces Jo, a girl who has always had an invisible friend, a voice inside her head named Gally.  Set twenty years after Ferney, sixteen-year-old Jo and her two friends volunteer to help out at an archaeological dig near Pen Selwood.  It is there she meets Mike Martin, another volunteer, and then shortly after a boy named Luke falls from the sky.  From this moment on their lives become entangled, and Mike must face a past he would like to forget.

The most redeeming feature for me was that Long had Galley and Ferney realise the consequences of their desire for each other and their all consuming love.  The plot for this book was driven more by the characters rather than the history of the villages and not until the end does Long indulge in a couple of long historical ramblings.  While some of the characters may still be stereotypes, I would feel much more comfortable recommending The Lives She Left Behind over Ferney to any fans of chick-lit with a twist.

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