October 27th, 2010 by Leah 5/5
The One I Love is published by Penguin and on sale in the UK from 28th Oct.
Once Jane and Alexandra were inseparable – sharing adventures, secrets and big dreams for the future. But when Jane got pregnant at seventeen, they drifted apart. Seventeen years later, Jane discovers Alexandra has disappeared and she sets about helping Alexandra’s broken-hearted husband, Tom, to find his wife.
But in searching for Alexandra Jane is about to confront some big questions about herself. Like, what happened to the high-spirited seventeen-year-old she once was? What will happen if she stops trying to control the world? And does love really mean letting people go? Two fractured people come together accidentally and in one another they find strength, friendship – and even the beginnings of hope …
Please note that this book is also titled So What If I’m Broken and Alexandra, Gone!
When I read Anna McPartlin’s debut novel Pack up the Moon earlier this year I was so thankful that I had spotted the cover while browsing Google because otherwise I never would have bought the book because I would never have known it existed. I thought Pack up the Moon was stunning, it really blew me away and I quickly collected up the rest of Anna’s books. I managed to get myself a copy of her latest book The One I Love (also known as Alexandra, Gone and So What If I’m Broken?) to review and I started it fully expecting another cracking read and I wasn’t disappointed at all.
At the beginning of The One I Love, the entire Chapter One in fact, we’re introduced to numerous characters; there’s Alexandra, who after writing a note to husband Tom sets off to meet her friend but disappears on route, we meet Elle and Jane who are friends of Alexandra and who are sisters, Elle likes to write letters to the Universe whereas Jane has found herself pregnant at 17, we then meet Leslie, who we learn is cut off from all of her family and friends due to a genetic gene and then finally, we meet Tom, Alexandra’s husband as he sets about trying to find his wife. It’s complete chaos, ranging from 1989 to 1996, to the present day of 2007, told in letter forms and flashbacks, and I was a bit concerned the book would carry on that way. But after setting out the storyline by introducing us to the main characters, and their problems, we then stay in 2007 and the story progresses from there like a proper story should as they try to find Alexandra.
The plot truly is fantastic, because although the basis for the entire plot is Alexandra being missing and Tom’s search to find her, we also learn about Tom, Jane, Elle and Leslie. After meeting at a Jack Lukeman concert, they got stuck in the lift, they all band together to search for Alexandra but they also become friends as well. Yet they all have their own problems: Jane is still in love with her son Kurt’s dad Dominic, Elle has deep-set issues with the world, Leslie lives her life under a cloud, constantly being hounded by a gene that has harmed other family members and Tom is just looking for his wife. As they all try to come to terms with their problems, and learn new secrets, and start new relationships you really begin to care about each and every one of them, and I was turning the pages avidly, desperate to carry on reading.
There is no main or lead character in the novel, that’s shared by Jane, Tom, Elle and Leslie and each have their own quirks and foibles that make them their own. I liked them all equally and found them all incredibly well rounded. But what I liked best was that they were all so human. They each made mistakes throughout the novel, little ones, big ones, and for me it just made me like them all the more. Jane was the most family-oriented, looking after her son Kurt as well as her aging, drunk mother Rose and flighty sister Elle, and always put them before herself. Elle, as I’ve said, was flighty and impulsive and a bit of a wild child, and she spoke to me the most I think (for the record, I am nothing like Elle). Leslie was shy, staying alone and away from the world, until her encounter in the lift when she finally decided it was time to stop living like a hermit. And Tom, Tom was brave, when many people would have just left Alexandra for dead, Tom carried on looking for her and I totally admired that in him. He had heart and spirit. In fact, they all had heart and spirit. There are many other, minor, characters in the novel. Rose, Elle and Jane’s spiky mother, Kurt, Jane’s teenage son, Alexandra’s family, her parents and siblings, Leslie’s sister’s widow Jim, they all made their mark and none more so than Alexandra herself. Alexandra herself is in four pages total, but the book is infinitely her. From the memories Jane has of her, to Tom’s memories, her families memories, she just shines off the pages and despite not really knowing her, we do care for her. I’ve no idea how McPartlin pulled that off, but she did, and for me, Alexandra was utterly real.
The One I Love is about a lot of things, but the main thing that will stay with me is written on the front of the book: that no matter what, true friends will not give up and that encompasses the book perfectly. Not only that, but the feeling I got of how each of the characters found themselves, it was immense. McPartlin has pulled off another stunning novel, and for me she ranks up there with Marian Keyes and Melissa Hill in terms of how well she writes and how good she is at crafting a story. The book is told in third-person, moving from Jane to Elle to Leslie to Tom, which works fantastically well and I never got lost off despite there being so much going on. I adored the book, and Anna is two for two with me so far and I look forward to getting stuck into her other two novels. I sincerley hope she’s working on another novel – and many other novels in the future – as she’s definitely an author you want to be reading. She may not be huge in the UK, I can’t really speak for Ireland, but she deserves to be. I am a huge fan.
I’d like to thank the publisher for sending me this to review.