What a treat to curl up on the sofa on a chilly winter’s night and read Patricia Scanlan’s latest novel.
With a clutch of bestsellers to her name (including Love and Marriage and City
Girl), Scanlan is renowned for writing heart-warming novels about family,
friendship and love.
Her new book, With All My Love is no
exception. I read it in one delicious go, with tears streaming down my face by
the time I got to the last chapter.
Once again, Scanlan focuses on a family – a family torn apart by a festering
tangle of secrets and lies.
The book opens as Briony McAllister sits in a sunny park on the Costa del Sol,
watching her young daughter playing with her dolls. Briony’s mother, Valerie
Harris, has recently bought a house in Spain and Briony and her daughter have
flown out from Dublin to help her settle in.
But when Briony takes an old photograph album out of her bag and starts to leaf
through it, a letter she has never seen before falls out. The letter is
addressed to her and as Briony reads it she realises that her mother has been
lying to her for more than twenty years. Her mother had always maintained that
Briony’s beloved grandmother cut off contact when she was little and didn’t
want to see her – but it was an out and out lie.
As the lives of the three women unfold, Scanlan observes the conflict from each
point of view. None of the women are without blame, but Scanlan cleverly makes
the reader sympathetic towards each of them in turn. One moment I felt sorry
for Tessa, Briony’s abandoned grandmother, the next I felt infuriated by her
antagonism towards Valerie. For instance, when Valerie falls in love with
Tessa’s youngest and favourite son, Tessa does everything she can to put a stop
to the relationship. She makes snide remarks about Valerie’s clothes, warns her
not to distract her son from his studies and acidly refers to her as “Miss
Best of all, Scanlan keeps readers guessing about the women’s secrets right
till the very end. There was no way on earth I could cast the book aside and
stop reading. I had my suspicions, but I had
to find out why Valerie had taken such drastic action and deprived Tessa of her
precious relationship with her granddaughter.
PS. Watch out too, for Scanlan’s brilliant evocation of life in the late 70s
and 80s, when Valerie first meets Tessa’s son. Glittery boob tubes, Queen
singing We Will Rock You, Charlie
perfume – Scanlan has remembered it all.
With All My Love by Patricia Scanlan (Simon & Schuster, £12.99)