Since the first time I read it, Meg Rosoff’s How I Live Now has occupied a firm spot on my Top Ten Favourite Books of All list. Funny that an author who produced a book I love so dearly didn’t completely win me over with her subsequent efforts. Now I read them, and I could see they were the product of the same brilliant artistic mind, but neither Just in Case nor What I Was seized my heart the way her first book did. It might be because I know I am a total sucker for romance, and what with How I Live Now being such a desperately romantic book, I suppose I was expecting more along that line with Rosoff’s next books. There aren’t many books that when I simply think of them, pull my mind away from my real life for a few moments as I drift back to the most memorable scenes from the narrative. How I Live Now is certainly that sort of book for me, and I’m happy to report that The Bride’s Farewell charmed me from beginning to end. It doesn’t grab you with the same gut-wrenching intensity as How I Live Now, but rather it sneaks up on you, as Rosoff weaves an atmospheric, romantic tale of love abandoned, love lost and found. So there’s romance. Check. And galloping across the windswept moors. Double check.
The novel opens as Pell Ridley prepares to ride away from her family’s humble country cottage in the early morning of her wedding day. She is heading for Salisbury Fair where she hopes to find work and start life on her own terms, desperate to avoid the harsh existence of her mother and other women in her small community. Just as she takes one last look back, her young, mute brother Bean appears on the path. He ends up going with her. Of course everything proves to be even harder than Pell might have predicted. The novel is set in the New Forest, and the wild landscape is beautifully evoked throughout. There is a Gypsy woman and a whole caravan of children. There are many horses and honest folk and chancers and there’s a mysterious poacher. Oh, and there are two brilliant dogs in the book. One is named Dicken and I am smitten with him.
Here’s Rosoff speaking about her book:
It is a story that feels classic already. It’s about recognizing your family and leaving them behind, hoping for better than you have and learning that life is a risk. Needless to say, the language is lovely. There are passages here that you will want to double back over and read again. If you aren’t a horse person at the beginning of the book, you will be by the end. It made me want a white pony. Really badly. And a moor to ride across as well.
For the hopeless romantic who doesn’t mind a shade of Hardy gloom and hardship. Perfection.
The Bride’s Farewell is published by Doubleday in Canada.