Thursday, 20 November 2014

The Forever Girl

A childhood crush that evolves into lasting unrequited love is the topic of The Forever Girl, a one-off novel from the author of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. As he does so well with Mme Ramotswe’s Botswana, McCall Smith conjures up the evocative setting of Cayman Island. Here Clover lives with her Scottish banker father and expat American mother. There are huge disparities of wealth on Cayman, but Clover’s family clearly belong to the well-to-do set with tennis clubs and pool parties the order of the day.

From the age of six, Clover and James are great friends, but as the children get older, this friendship becomes awkward for James, while in the background, marital strife dogs both sets of parents. These issues are brought to a head when the children leave the island to go to high school. This becomes a period of separation and longing for Clover, while James scarcely seems to notice.

The story follows Clover’s continued unrequited love for James as she goes on to university in Edinburgh. She’s so likeable she soon makes friends and settles into student life. But she continually feels a sadness over James until she decides she must take steps to deal with it.

The Forever Girl is an unusual novel, dealing with an issue that in less capable hands might have left the reader cringing. McCall Smith is at his best when handling the perplexities that burden the human heart, and as usual adds wisdom to his story telling. The end result is a warm, compassionate and sensitive novel, and I particularly enjoyed the contrasting settings of tropical Cayman and the university city of Edinburgh.

Posted by JAM

Catalogue link: The Forever Girl

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