Book reviews

It was Always You by Emma Cooper

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I will always be doing this 100% without spoilers, but before I say anything else, I have to say “Make sure you have tissues at the ready”, this is a ‘cry book’.

Would you choose a different life if you had the chance?
Two people. One chance to turn back the clock.

On the last night in October 1999, the clocks went back, and Ella and Will’s love began.

A teenage Ella sat around a bonfire drinking with her future husband and her oldest friend Cole.

As Ella wandered away from the group, she found herself leaning against a derelict archway before passing out.

The next day, Ella remembered fractured images of a conversation with a woman in a green coat and red scarf but dismissed it as a drunken dream.

Twenty-three years later, with her marriage to Will in trouble, and Cole spiralling out of control, Ella opens a gift which turns her life upside down: a green coat and red scarf.

When she looks in the mirror, the woman from the archway is reflected back at her.

As the last Sunday in October arrives, Ella is faced with a choice. Would she choose a different life, if she could do it again?

What I was expecting: A classic contemporary romance with a happily ever after and characters that had enough dimension to make them interesting.

What I got: A contemporary romance with a little bit of magic, a lot of conflict, confusing emotions and characters filled with so much complexity I fell in love with them.

Ella is rightly confused when, the day before her birthday, her husband of 20 years, Will, asks her for a divorce.

When I read this I truly anticipated this being a ‘she moves somewhere, meets someone else’ type of tale. I partly expected her to give up on her husband, and let him move on, despite there being zero reasons I could see for them separating, it felt brutal in many ways.

And then, along comes Cole. From the moment his character returned to the story – though he was always there – I expected Ella to realise that she was in love with her old friend. Instead, she’s there for him when he needs her, to help him fight the alcoholic demons he’s been battling since he was a teenager.

Cole’s a bit of a lothario, but he’s always had something for Ella and was so sure that they would end up together that he never focused his attention anywhere else. Part of me was heartbroken for him. And of course, Ella being the soft heart that she is, drops everything to aid him, despite what she is going through herself.

Though I am one who tends to shy away from novels that have a somewhat convoluted timeline, it’s the main reason I have avoided reading The Outlander by Gabaldon though my grandmother absolutely loved them, the ‘Then’ and ‘Now’ aspect gives the story further dimension. For some reason, it actually provides the reader with the insight needed to really understand what is going on in the ‘now’.

All of the characters are well-rounded, helped in part by the fact that we get to experience their past and what made them into who they are in the here and now. Despite the fact that the book encompasses two different times in the characters’ lives, everything is kept relatively tidy because we are looking at a few characters rather than introducing more and more people as the story goes on.

As I have already said, keep tissues at the ready. It’s a bumpy ride, but a well-written and enjoyable one. I was so absorbed in the story that I read it in a single sitting.

This is the first book I have picked up by Emma Cooper, but it won’t be the last. Now I have another author to add to my TBR.

Pros

  • Tearjerker, heartbreaker
  • Well-developed characters that were easy to empathise with
  • Was not so deep in the magical aspect that all reality melted away

Cons

  • Made me cry, a lot
4-star rating
Category: Book reviews
Tags: Book reviews
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