REVIEW: NOTHING FORGOTTEN, BY JESSICA LEVINE

 

When Anna, now living in California, is contacted by the Italian lover she knew decades before, she recalls their affair and the child she gave up for adoption. As the episode returns to haunt her―threatening the life she’s built, including her marriage―the story moves back in time to her youth in Europe.

Rome, 1979. Anna, twenty-two and living abroad, is involved with a man already engaged to be married. When she meets and befriends his fiancée, she is forced to confront the moral consequences of her actions. But an unexpected pregnancy, an anonymous letter, and threatening relatives complicate the picture. A novel in which an unconventional heroine, far from home, is forced to reckon with the judgment of others.

 

My Thoughts: From her present life in Berkeley, CA, Anna Stark is swept back in time to a love affair that has never been forgotten. Her first person narrative takes us to Rome…and to an Italian village where her lover’s family lives, and as she is brought into his orbit, she finds herself conflicted, confused, and unsure of what lies ahead.

Will Sergio’s plans to marry the suitable choice, Olivia, end the love affair? Will Anna try to stop the wedding? How will her choices change everything?

As I turned the pages of Nothing Forgotten, I was caught up in the beauty of the setting and the strength of the family ties. Sergio’s family opened their arms to her, including her in meals, but one member of the Italian family would turn against her when she tried to tell her secret to Sergio. The era of 1979 reminded me of how lives were different back then, and how these same events in this day and age could have taken an entirely new path.

In the present, Anna and her husband separate, and upon her return to Italy to see her aunt’s apartment again, she makes some life-changing decisions. 4 stars.***

REVIEW: SWEET WILLIAM, BY BERYL BAINBRIDGE

 

When dull professor Gerald leaves London for the United States, his fiancée, Ann, is a bit afraid and sad to see him go—never has he looked so handsome and masculine as when he’s about to board the plane. But a few days later at a religious service, Ann is beckoned to sit next to a stranger with yellow curls and a nose like a prizefighter’s. Her heart inexplicably begins to race; she feels like she has the flu. This stranger, William McClusky, tells Ann in his Scottish accent that he is a playwright who will be interviewed on TV the very next day. Furthermore, he promises to have a television dropped by her house so she can watch him! From this first bizarre seduction, Ann is infatuated, and in the days following, William begins to take over her life.
 
In the throes of the affair, Ann gives up her BBC job, helps a friend get an abortion, encourages adultery, and writes a break-up letter to her fiancé. Her engagement to Gerald had been rushed, after all, and was designed to serve her mother’s desires more than her own. With William, on the other hand, everything feels different. But is this new man really who he says he is? Is he a genius or a fraud, a compassionate soul or a cheater? Perhaps William is simply a means by which Ann can play out her dangerous fantasies and finally take part in the swinging sixties. Only one thing is certain: Now that she’s with him, there’s no turning back.
MY THOUGHTS:
Was Ann a victim of the times? Did she throw herself into the affair with William to prove something to herself, to show that she was “with it”? Or might she have been rebelling a bit against her mother’s life choices?It was hard for me to understand how this young woman could be so blinded by William, since it was clear to this reader that any charms he had were absent by the end of the first week or so. I just could not see anything “sweet” about this William. Furthermore, he very quickly took control of Ann’s life until she had nothing to depend upon but him, and his fickle ways often left her alone.

His behavior was “crazy-making.” I have known men like that. When the woman questions his behavior, or tries to get a straight answer out of him, he turns it around on her, making her believe that she is wrong or delusional.

I had a hard time continuing to read Sweet William, as all of the characters were unlikable in one way or another. I suspect that the author’s goal was to stir up a variety of emotions, maybe even laughter at the idiocy of the times and these characters. The book was well-written, but I did not enjoy it. 3.5 stars.

***