Altogether moving: Together by Juliet Cohen

On a seemingly ordinary morning, eighty year old Robbie leaves his partner Emily, sleeping in bed, changes his clothes, feeds their dogs then does something that will completely shatter Emily’s world. ‘Together’, begins on this day, the last day of Robbie’s life, and slowly tells Robbie and Emily’s story backwards, from 2016 back to 1962. As Cohen unfolds their story, Robbie’s motives for his actions that morning slowly become clearer as a secret emerges which even their beloved son can never know, and which the couple have spent their lives running from.

A warning though, ‘Together’ requires a constant stash of Kleenex from page one. In the first part of this story Robbie and Emily are celebrating 43 love filled years together along with their beloved son and grandchildren in Maine. They have been grounded and highly successful in their professional lives – Emily as a doctor and Robbie as a boat builder- but with Robbie showing the early signs of Alzheimer’s, it is clear that their time together is drawing to a close. From then on, Cohen takes us back to each integral moment in the couple’s relationship, from their meeting, to their decision to very much sacrifice everything to be together, to the final big reveal that will leave you stunned, rapt, and thanks to Julie Cohen’s beautiful writing, ultimately moved.

‘Together’ is frequently being referred to as a love story, but Cohen’s gift for brilliant characterization and unique story telling make this so much more. If you love David Nicholls ‘One Day’ or Jojo Moyes’ ‘Me Before You’ this compelling and unpredictable story is an ideal match for you.

Like Em and Dex in David Nicholls ‘One Day’, Robbie and Emily are complex, fun and vivid characters that are a joy to read about. Readers very much love and invest in them from page one.
Cohen’s understated yet passionate and moving writing very much helps to create this, and while some may find the reversed timeline a little difficult to get their head around at first, this unique structure works perfectly for Cohen’s story. The narrative is well thought out and I found myself going back and rereading passages again, immersing myself in the couple’s memories and story more and more, as moments seemed to take on whole new meanings.

Robbie and Emily have stayed in my mind for days since reading this beautiful novel. I loved every moment of my time with them and was left wanting more. Beautifully written, thought provoking, and clever in so many ways, ‘Together’ is a book that will leave you gripped from start to finish. Just remember to grab that stash of Kleenex and put aside a solid day to get through this wonderful novel because trust me, once you start you won’t be putting this down.

Together
by Julie Cohen
Published by Hachette New Zealand
ISBN: 9781409171744

A beautiful place to die

Cover of A Beautiful Place to DieI’ve read a couple of books recently at opposite ends of the reading spectrum – one’s funny and character-driven, and one’s dark and atmospheric. The first you’ve probably heard of already — Jojo Moyes’ The One Plus One (not as sappy as it sounds! If you enjoy Liane Moriarty or Raffaella Barker you’ll love it) — but the second I hadn’t noticed before, although that’s probably due to my reading prejudices. And I wouldn’t have picked it up off the shelf, because look at that cover! What is it with all books set in Africa having the same look, whether romance or mystery?! It’s always a silhouette of a tree against the sky, probably with a sunset, maybe a giraffe. Come on, publishers, up your game.

Cover of African SkiesCover of In Search of AfricaCover of Into the Lion's DenCover of Ivory

I’m not usually much of a crime reader — I definitely veer towards the Dorothy Sayers end of the crime spectrum — but after reading a review of Malla Nunn’s first novel, A Beautiful Place to Die, I was intrigued enough to give it a try. A Beautiful Place to Die kicks off a series of four books (so far), all featuring detective Emmanuel Cooper and all set in 1950s apartheid South Africa.

As has happened to me before, and as could probably be guessed from the title, I’ve fallen in love with the setting. The descriptions of the landscape are so evocative, the tension between such a beautiful country and its ugly laws so captivating, I couldn’t put it down. Even a murder investigation is influenced by apartheid laws in so many ways — Cooper is challenged by his superiors when he investigates white suspects, as upholding the institution of racism is deemed more important than bringing a killer to justice. As might be expected there is a lot of violence simmering beneath the surface.

If you enjoy your crime with a bit of armchair travel and racial politics, this is the book for you! Or if you prefer funny stories about dysfunctional families like The One Plus One, please tell me your favourites in the comments. I’ll need something a bit lighter when I finish Blessed Are the Dead!