When Kate discovers emails from her husband Adam - aka 'Prince Charming' - to another woman, she takes a long look at her long marriage. And once she starts, she finds all kinds of things she had been doing her level best not to see.
As her home life unravels, Kate's work - at a global hotel company - and her nightmare boss become increasingly demanding. She wants to protect her young girls, but her own foundations have been knocked away. Who was the man with whom she spent all those years?
Told with warmth and lightness, even as it also mines real depths of sorrow, Lover is a novel about the hand that life can deal you, and how to play it with grace. Beautifully observed, full of wisdom, poetry and humour, it asks what it means to be true in all things, and in so doing, how to live.
Lover by Anna Raverat is published by Picador on 10 March 2016. Back in February 2012 I read and reviewed Anna Raverat's previous novel Signs of Life here on Random Things. Although it's over four years ago, I still remember that story so well, it's a remarkable debut and I was thrilled to get a pre-publication of Lover to review. Thrilled but also a little apprehensive, and praying that this one would be as good as her first. It is. I'm so pleased. I have been totally consumed by Lover.
"There is no such thing as a broken heart.
The heart is a muscle, not a vase."
These are the words spoken by Kate's boss Trish. Kate would like to disagree with Trish as the pain that she is feeling, deep inside, feels pretty real to her. It started when she found the emails addressed to 'Prince Charming' on her husband Adam's computer, and it hasn't gone away.
In Lover, Anna Raverat has told the story of the break-down of a long and seemingly happy marriage. Kate and Adam and their two children have a fairly ordinary life, they are busy with work, with school events, with the elderly dog Charlie, just busy, like thousands of families across the UK.
Yes, there have been difficult and trying times. When Adam had a break-down because he couldn't bear his job any more. When he started up a new business, working for himself, Kate supported him and was there for him. Their two small girls are bright and funny and sometimes their demands can be stressful, and Kate's new job is important and pressurised. She often works away for days at a time, but Adam is always there for her. Well, that's what she thought, what she really believed.
Anna Raverat's superbly observed telling of the sudden impact of realisation, and the physical effects on Kate's body and brain is really excellently done. The way that Kate's whole world seems to fly up into the air and rain down on her in jagged and sharp pieces is at times, extremely painful to read, yet there is also a subtle humour in the words, that prevents this novel from descending into continuous despair and pity.
Most women who read Lover will recognise aspects of Kate's behaviour and feelings. That slow dawning of realisation and dread that can make you question everything that you have ever believed in. Lover is told in the first person and Kate's voice never wavers, her feelings for Adam turn from love, to hate, and back again and again, and her recollection of the time that she set eyes on him for the very first time, whilst short is quite overwhelming. Those words say everything about her shock, despair and total enveloping fear about their crumbling, almost dead relationship.
Alongside the break down of Kate's family is the devastation being wrought by her boss to the company that Kate loves and is loyal too. The reader can compare and contrast the pain that Kate feels when her colleagues are mistreated and double-crossed, and the startling similarities to her personal life add depth to the story. Whilst Kate is the main voice, the lead character, and the centre of Lover, the author has also created some wonderfully realistic and complementary supporting characters. From the back-street, second-hand goods dealers, to the wonderfully perceptive book shop assistant to Kate's cold Mother, each of them contribute hugely to this haunting, compelling and witty novel.
My thanks to Francesca at PanMacmillan, Picador who sent my copy for review.
Anna Raverat grew up in North Yorkshire and now lives in London with her three children.
Her first novel Signs of Life was selected for the 'Waterstone's 11', a list of the eleven top debut authors of the year, as chosen by Waterstone's booksellers.
Her second novel, Lover is published by Picador