‘Reluctantly Home’ by Imogen Clark – this one’s not for me – abandoned at 15%

I’m only 15% through this book and I’m setting it aside. Normally, I’d persist for a little longer than this before abandoning a book, unless the writing was truly awful, which is not the case here.

I picked the book up because I loved the title, the cover and the premise.

The title, ‘Reluctantly Home’ has multiple meanings: the reluctant return to a home you thought you’d left behind you when you became an adult and took charge of your life, the dissonance that can be created because ‘home’ and the person that you were when you lived at home, never quite leaves you, even when your newly launched life is under full sail, the sense that home is something you reluctantly settle for when you accept that you can never escape its gravity well, and perhaps, if your lucky, it becomes a place that, despite your reluctance, where you feel you belong and want to stay.

The cover grabbed me because it’s simple but evocative which gave me hope that the novel would also be simple but evocative.

The premise appealed in a couple of ways: I like the idea of women with high potential whose lives have been derailed by the events they can’t control, helping each other to find the resilience and optimism to bring joy back into their lives.

So, how come I’m abandoning this book so quickly?

The main reason was that I struggled to empathise with either of the women. I understand that Pip Appleby is traumatised by the fatal accident she was involved in but I found her lack of introspection and self-knowledge difficult to reconcile with someone who has had the intelligence and drive to make a career for herself as a prominent Human Rights lawyer. To me, she came across as someone who ran away from her old life and invented a new one that was all shine and no depth. It’s not that I can’t imagine someone like her. It’s just that, when I do imagine them, I have no sympathy with them. Evelyn Mountcastle, an actress on the brink of success when fate intervened and changed her plans, is another woman who had sold herself a fairytale but couldn’t produce a happily ever after. To me, she seemed very naïve, which is not a fault but is a little hard to credit in an actress who is years into her career.

Imogen Clark’s style of storytelling didn’t help me become invested in these two women. It was too arms-length for me. I never got inside either woman’s head. I felt I got dialogue, plot and stage directions but no intimacy.

Maybe the rest of the book works differently, once the characters and their situations are established but I have too many other books calling to me, to spend the time to find out if I’m wrong about this one.

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