I love reading, and as a writer I like to broaden my scope by reading outside of my comfort zone, so that I can learn more about my craft.
** I WAS GIVEN THIS BOOK, BY THE AUTHOR, IN RETURN FOR AN HONEST REVIEW **
First off, let me just say that I knew I was going to love this book, before I even started reading it. I've read 2 of the 3 books in Christoph's Three Nations Trilogy and have the third to read. I've loved every one. This one, didn't disappoint, even though it's of a completely different format.
This is a contemporary fiction story, rather than historical.
I really like how Biddy's Alzheimer's has been portrayed honestly, both from the pessimistic/dismissive attitude (at times) of Walter, and the hopeful but misguided attitude of Hanna.
Saying that, I have to admit that I don't like Hanna and I felt this very quickly into the story. I don't know if I'm supposed to like her or not, but I don't. I find her very literal, close minded (despite her belief in open-minded ideas) and so stuck in her own life that she doesn't, or maybe doesn't want to, see the bigger picture. I also don't think she wants to accept the thoughts and varying perceptions of the same situation, from another person's point of view. I see this especially with Walter, her brother Henrik and the paramedic Karim. She often fails to see their perspective and doesn't seem to care that they have a different view of things, dismissing them entirely.
"You should call one of your friends to go along with you. You can't go to a pub alone. That is sad." <- This is the type of thing that annoys me about Hanna the most; her close-minded attitude. I don't agree with this statement and was very happy that Walter didn't either. I think it shows a strength of mind, character and a strong sense of self to go out alone, in a social environment, in a time when it is still considered socially unacceptable.
"He missed the partner he had lost to the disease, but was able to console himself that the loveable woman he married was still around." <- This is exactly why I love this book. Although Walter really struggles, especially with frustration and a desperation to have the Biddy he married back, there are moments of clarity for him, where he can see past the hardships and see what he still has. I think his part of the story is the best and he shows a real inner strength, insisting that he take care of Biddy, even though he struggles daily. This is also where I think Hanna is too consumed with her own life - she fails to see how he struggles and how bad Biddy really is.
I love Tom, as a character. He stepped in, for two minutes, and really shined a light for Walter. I would have loved to see more of him and Walter becoming friends and taking care of Biddy, as Walter realised that he wasn't alone. This quote, in particular, just about had me in tears:
"It was days like today where he realised how helpless they all were. He felt powerless in the face of a disease that kept changing its ugly face. What had been clear as day had quickly turned into mist."
I think it really shows the adaptable and heartbreaking truth of Alzheimer's disease, all in that one quote.
Again, Hanna. *sigh* Here is one quote, in particular, that I think really shows how judgemental and single-minded she is, even in front of someone had chosen this restaurant to take her to. Yet, she thinks nothing of degrading it and his choice. She never looks beyond the surface and misses everything that is important (like Karim!)
""I should have known," she said. "When a restaurant has that many statues and pictures and fake plants the food must also be tacky."
"You'll be surprised at the standard of the food here then," Karim promised.
"I have been to Thailand and the reputable restaurants there have simple designs, wood and bamboo, none of this fancy stuff."
"Well, get ready to be impressed," Karim said."
She's also very snobbish, which crops up quite a lot, and always seems to be when she's with Karim.
"He turned many rather prestigious job offers down and instead worked in idealistic and lowly paid counselling institutions."
"Do you mean charities, or the NHS?" Karim asked.
I mean, you can't get much more snobbish than that. How are charities and the NHS idealistic? Also, she's saying this in front of Karim, who is a paramedic. Way to go insulting your dinner date.
I have to admit, that I expected Walter's frustration and anger to possibly lead to a sickness that killed him before Biddy, so I saw a glimmer of the ending coming. Unfortunately, it's all too often that when the burden of care (though they don't see it a burden) is removed, the carer often succumbs to the stress, strain and the loss of the situation.
As always, with this author, this was an incredibly well written story, with a great plot. There were a variety of interesting and relateable characters. I loved Walter and Karim the best. The story was touching and made my heart ache.