‘After You Left’ – Carol Mason
“You want to know what the worst thing is? It’s not the embarrassment, or the looks on people’s faces when I tell them what happened. It isn’t the pain of him not being there—loneliness is manageable. The worst thing is not knowing why.”
When Justin walks out on Alice on their honeymoon, with no explanation apart from a cryptic note, Alice is left alone and bewildered, her life in pieces.
Then she meets Evelyn, a visitor to the gallery where she works. It’s a seemingly chance encounter, but Alice gradually learns that Evelyn has motives, and a heartbreaking story, of her own. And that story has haunting parallels with Alice’s life.
As Alice delves into the mystery of why Justin left her, the questions are obvious. But the answers may lie in the most unlikely of places…
Girl meets boy. They fall in love. She moves away and they find their own paths in life. They meet many years later but know they cannot pursue their love. With a present day story intertwined, this plot follows two female protagonists who have been disappointed in love. And the end result? A read that isn’t too original.
Surprisingly, I found it difficult to emotionally connect with Alice and Evelyn. The plot was a struggle to get into and I found it fell a little flat. I could see where the story was going and whilst there were a few surprises, I don’t think the whole “parallel story” was well executed. Alice’s story originally had me transfixed – her husband suddenly leaves her just after their wedding day – but Mason was unable to continue the pace and anticipation. At times, the plot felt muddled and as if Mason was trying too hard.
Evelyn’s story progresses over several decades but she appears to be a timeless character. Mason makes many references to the night Evelyn and Eddy first met – so much so, that I thought I had slept through reading this part! Instead, Mason provides this romantic yet, fateful episode at the closing of the novel. Whilst I did answer many questions, I believe it would have added more intrigue if this had been part of the prologue.
There are some sad scenes in this novel, particularly those set in present day. Eddy’s dementia and his lack of memory regarding his life with Evelyn was particularly poignant. It is one I’m sure many readers will be able to relate to and it was this aspect that made me the story so emotional. Otherwise, it all fell a bit flat with me.
Despite struggling to get into this narrative, it was pleasant and easy to read. Not the most enjoyable, it is probably best suited to someone in a “reading slump” who needs a gradual reading “pick me up”. If you have just finished a five star, banging read, then come back to this later down the line.