Saturday, July 25, 2015

Review: Past Encounters by Davina Blake

I enjoyed this book. Parts of it were slow and bits of the story seemed to drag on for a little too long, but overall, it was a good book.

The backdrop for the story is the filming of the movie Brief Encounter - a really beautiful movie about a couple who meet on the train on a regular basis, gradually fall for each other, consider having an affair, but don't. If you're familiar with that story - and now that I think about it, the movie is never thoroughly explained in the book and is only mentioned by name in the beginning when one of the characters is watching it - the story of that movie sort of echoes throughout the lives of the characters.

After noticing her husband's strange behavior - this usually very calm man puts his fist through the window - Rhoda becomes suspicious and starts going through his letters.  She finds a note thanking him for flowers. Thinking her husband of almost ten years is having an affair she decides to confront the woman who sent the note.  When she does, she learns that this woman, is actually the wife of her husband's best friend, Archie, who recently died. From this man's wife Rhoda learns that Archie and her husband, Peter, were in a Prisoner of War camp together for five years.

Rhoda begins meeting with this woman in an attempt to learn more about her husband's past. She doesn't understand why he's never shared any of this information, and yet, at the same time, we learn that Rhoda has been keeping her own secrets about the years when Peter was away.

She was only 18 when she said she'd marry him, moments before he left for war.  The next time she saw him, she was 24.  Both of them suffered through life altering experiences during their time apart.

The story is told in flashbacks, revealing the details of Rhoda's life at home as she waited and Peter's life as a prisoner.  My only complaint about the story is it felt very choppy, a few moments of Peter at war, then a couple of pages about Rhoda. I wish there hadn't been so much back and forth.

I really liked Rhoda's story, though it broke my heart. (I'm not sure why I seem to be reading all these tragic love stories lately, but whatever, I do seem to be drawn to them.) And Peter's experience was harrowing. It hurt to read those parts, but I suppose that was necessary to show why Peter acted the way he did.

I liked the book, it showed the horrors of war and the lasting effects on the individuals who went through it at home and in battle.  But it was also very much about a marriage and communication and learning to accept each and understand each other and move forward when necessary.

I received a review copy via NetGalley.

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