Published: 11th August 2016
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Today is the first day of the rest of your life is the motto on a plate in the kitchen at home, and Tess can’t get it out of her head, even though she’s in Florence for a final, idyllic holiday before university. Her life is about to change forever – but not in the way she expects. Gus and his parents are also on holiday in Florence. Their lives have already changed suddenly and dramatically. Gus tries to be a dutiful son, but longs to escape and discover what sort of person he is going to be. For one day, the paths of an eighteen-year-old girl and boy criss-cross before they each return to England. Over the course of the next sixteen years, life and love will offer them very different challenges.
Thank you to Pan Macmillan for kindly sending me a review copy.
The narrative begins in August 1997 with Tess and Doll finishing off their backpacking adventure in Europe. As they arrive back home, Tess is welcomed by some heart breaking news: her Mum is terminally ill. I immediately connected with Tess from the opening chapter and was looking forward to seeing how her story would continue. The plot is split between Tess and Gus; two teenagers who glimpse at one another whilst visiting a church in Italy. You just know it’s going to be a beautiful love story..
“In this historic city, I could be a person with no history, the person I wanted to be, whoever that was. At eighteen, the thought was a revelation.”
As the plot progresses into 1998, Tess and Gus go through different paths in life; one to look after her younger sister and one off to university to become a doctor. It was really interesting to see where both story lines would go and when the pair would meet; if they ever would. Hope, the younger sister of Tess, was such a joy to read about – she was completely absorbed in her own world, unaware that her reception classmates paid her no attention and I felt sorry for her because she was such a lovely little character to read about.
“I read. Gets me out of the house. In a different way, obviously…”
The ending was extremely beautiful. As Tess and Gus came together in a full circle; finding one another in the place they first met. Their instant connection was powerful and I wish they had met sooner because they were two jigsaw pieces coming together and fitting perfectly with one another. There was no need for any description of either character; imagining how they looked was my job as the reader and I’m really glad that Kate allowed me to do that. The book wasn’t just a love story; it was about Breast Cancer, finding a lump early on, family struggles, good and bad relationship with friends and partners, travelling, career paths and living with Asperger’s Syndrome. Overall, it was a truly remarkable book which I shall be talking about for a long time coming.
“Grief’s not a checklist, Tess, it’s a process.”