Published: 20th April 2017
Twenty-eight year old Hannah is in Spain with her colleagues for a month to film a documentary and it’s a dream come true. Not at least because Hannah will get to spend long summer days with Theo, her boss (and crush). If only Tom (Hannah’s best friend and cameraman) and Claudette (the presenter) would stop getting in the way. But then things become even more complicated when Nancy, Hannah’s half-sister arrives. What on earth is she doing here? For once in her life, can’t Hannah just have one perfect summer, free of any drama?
Thank you to Penguin for kindly sending me a review copy.
Within the opening chapter of Then. Now. Always., a solid narrative about our main chapter is unfolded in front of the reader: Hannah works as a researcher for a television company called Livid, she has a half-sister who she can’t stand the sight of, she works along her best friend (and people think they’re in love!), she fancies the pants of her boss, Theo and within a quick conversation, she’s been invited on the next project: a trip to Mojacar. With Hannah having previous teenage experience of the place, it was clear that the rest of the plot would be filled with captivating stories and despite the readers never visiting with her before, it all felt rather familiar. Isabelle’s previous books have proved that her descriptions of travelling and new sights are rather spectacular.
“Oh my god – Theo was a teenage tramp, too. Now all I must do is invent a time machine, then go on holiday to the Greek Island that he was working on about twenty years ago and make him fall in love with me. Simple.”
As Hannah and her work colleagues settle down into their four week life in Mojacar, they’re all blown away by the beauty of their soundings and within several chapters, the pace of the plot is turned up a notch as Hannah meets up with a local woman who has lived there for over forty years to interview her for the documentary, the two quickly become friends and it was really lovely to see, (there’s more to this side of the plot than you’d originally think!). Before Hannah can blink, her work trip and quality time with Theo has come crashing down when her half-sister Nancy shows up wanting a holiday…
“Nowadays everyone seems afraid to admit that finding someone to love is a desirable goal.”
As the filming continues around Mojacar, Hannah begins to get to know Elaine (her new island friend) a lot more and soon enough, she confides in her about her feelings for Theo, her relationship with her sister and her parents divorce. It’s only when Hannah learns about Elaine’s past (I mean, wow, I had chills) that Hannah’s world begins to shake and crumble. Why is Nancy on the floor surrounded by shattered glass? What exactly is she hiding? Not gonna lie, I worked it out a lot quicker than Hannah… Why doesn’t Theo want a relationship? Why can’t Hannah see that Tom is the good guy? The descriptions which Isabelle beautifully wrote went hand in hand with the plot, almost like the perfect marriage.
“We’re led to believe that all these material things will make us happy, that they signify success and contentment, when, in actual fact, the opposite is true.”
The plot comes full circle towards the end. What readers witness in the opening chapter makes a shocking, yet rather beautiful realisation in the last handful of chapters between Hannah and Elaine. That is the aspect of Isabelle’s writing which I adore the most; she allows the readers to become swept up in the day-to-day lives of the characters before hitting them with something raw, emotional and very realistic. This is the perfect book to curl up with on a rainy day on the sofa and believe me, when I say: this isn’t your standard romantic ending.
P.S If you have read Isabelle’s previous book, A Year and A Day
, you may hear a familiar name mentioned right towards the end…