Author: Patricia Scanlan
Patricia Scanlan is the author of many Number One bestsellers and this one is sure to join them in that list. I was not familiar with the author or her work before picking up With All My Love and I must say that I’m glad we have had this introduction.
I laughed, I smiled, I cried and I choked back the tears. I was heart broken and I was awash with the warm and fuzzies. This is a book that I wish I could have hidden away from the world with for an afternoon; with a large, hot coffee and a packet of chips. I think I would have devoured it in an afternoon if I had a distractionless one.
Much of the story is told in flash-back and memories of Valerie as we learn of the events leading up to the cataclysmic, and quite possibly catastrophic, discovery of a letter in an old photo album. I did find that the timeline of the story jumped around quite a bit so I had to really immerse myself to be sure I would know exactly where I was.
With All My Love beautifully demonstrates many of the different issues that women face in their role as mother, and the way that things have changed for women through the generations.
I really love the way that Scanlan explores the cyclical nature of history and the effect it has on her characters, and the follow on effects that carry through the generations.
The book begins with Briony and her young daughter Katie adjusting to some fabulous new lifestyle changes that have been thrust upon them due to economic uncertainty. Briony has always been a working career mum so when she is made redundant with a four year old daughter it is cause for many mixed feelings. This enforced unemployment has granted her the blessing of time with her rapidly growing daughter, a blessing that is irreplaceable and priceless – even though it means giving lots of extra analysis to every shopping choice and the placement of every purchase on the priority list.
Briony and Katie are helping Valerie, Briony’s mum, settle in to her villa in Spain when Briony comes across an old letter addressed to her. A letter that is set to change everything, but will it tear the family further asunder or begin to repair some of the cracks…
At this point Valerie loses her battle with the memories of the past and we follow most of the events that brought us to this point through those memories. The timeline shifts from the present rift between Valerie and Briony to the events that brought them to this.
Valerie’s memories transport us back to the early 1980’s in Ireland where it was a very different time, more liberated than the generations preceding Valerie’s but still a far cry from the freedoms we enjoy today. We see a young couple struggle through many of the issues faced by young people still today, but these days they don’t face the added societal pressures that were present in the early 1980’s.
If we didn’t already know a little about how things turn out, there are stages throughout the book that make you think it will all work out and everyone will get their happily ever after. The traditional happily ever after is out of reach but that isn’t to say that these strong yet vulnerable women won’t make a happily ever after all of their own.
Scanlan explores the insecurities and hidden vulnerabilities of these three women beautifully, capturing the beauty in even their brashness. I could look at each woman objectively and come to my own conclusions about their culpability.
Perspective is a beautiful gift and it is often a gift bestowed only in hindsight, as Valerie discovers rather painfully. Every action has consequences and if you don’t consider those consequences when you make your decision it could haunt you for a very long time.
There were times I could not bring myself to agree with the actions of any of the main characters but I could still empathise with them and feel where they were coming from.
Another major aspect of this book is one that my mother would absolutely love, but that isn’t for everyone. Scanlan has not really utilised traditional religion in With All My Love but she certainly addresses a more spiritual side of life. It is not something that is omnipresent throughout the entire novel because much of the story takes place in flash-backs where Valerie and Jeff were together and happily in love even if things weren’t quite perfect.
There is great emphasis placed, in relevant sections, on the fact that we aren’t alone and that those we’ve loved and lost aren’t gone from us forever. They remain around us and we will know they are there if only we pay attention to the signs. I love this way of looking at things but I know that not everyone holds the same opinion.
Immerse yourself in Rockland’s and Dublin, get to know Valerie and Tessa as you follow their trail of heartache and spite all the while cheering them on to what you can’t help but hope will be a happy ending.
I recommend you go out and get yourself a copy of With All My Love, it has so much to offer. The story is an emotional roller coaster with a little bit of intrigue and a lot of heart, it speaks to the protective nature of every mother and those of us who have lost someone close that need a quiet reminder that they are always near.