Thursday 28 February 2013

With All My Love By Patricia Scanlan

Valerie and Tessa have always had a difficult relationship and have never got on, right from the moment that Jeff introduced his new girlfriend to his mother. Tessa would never admit it but Jeff, her youngest son, is her favourite and she only wants the very best for him, which includes studying hard for his exams to earn himself good grades and a career but her plans for Jeff are shattered when she learns of Valerie’s unplanned pregnancy.

Valerie loves Jeff with all her heart but she begins to doubt the strength of his feelings for her when she finds herself pregnant, especially when Tessa starts to interfere in their relationship. Tensions between Valerie and Tessa worsen when Briony is born. The birth of a baby should bring families closer but Jeff’s daughter only seems to drive the two women further apart as they clash over Jeff’s studies, christenings and unexpected visits.

Years later, Briony is a mother herself to four year old Katie. She hasn’t seen her grandparents, Tessa and Lorcan, since she was Katie’s age. Something happened when she was a child and they have refused to have any contact with her since. Briony has such happy memories of spending time with her grandparents when she was a little girl, being pushed on the swings, going down to the beach and trying on Tessa’s jewellery and shoes and then suddenly they were wrenched from her life. Briony was hurt and confused by their absence but over time she learned not to ask any questions about her father’s side of the family as it made her mother sad.

Briony is looking through an old family photo album when she stumbles across a letter addressed to her. It is a letter, written when she was a child, from her grandmother. Tessa is heartbroken that Valerie has cut off all contact and wants nothing more than to see Briony again. Realising her mother has lied to her all these years, Briony is furious that she has missed out on two loving grandparents. But Valerie had her reasons, reasons she must explain to Briony before history repeats itself and Valerie is cut out of her granddaughter’s life, just like she cut Tessa out of Briony’s life.

With All My Love is a story of the complications of love and family, between parent and child, man and woman and two women forced together through their love of Jeff. Jeff is caught in the middle, between his mother who can’t seem to let go and Valerie, his girlfriend who is desperate to have him all to herself. Both women act in an unforgivable way but there are reasons for their actions so it is difficult to take sides and I did sympathise with both Valerie and Tessa but it was Briony and Lorcan I felt for the most. Both were innocent parties and yet they both suffered. Briony lost out on a loving relationship with her grandparents and Lorcan missed out on his precious granddaughter growing up.

With All My Love will have you smiling one minute and crying the next. I found the friendship between Valerie and her best friend, Lizzie to be full of humour and their bond was warming in its strength. I loved watching them grow as they discovered boys, fell in love and became parents. Contrast to their easy friendship is the complex relationship between Valerie and Tessa as they battle over Jeff. Both are strong minded and unwilling to give in to the other and the consequences reverberate for another generation, the secrets and lies hidden but always on the surface, ready to explode.

With All My Love switches between the past and the present, the story of Valerie and Tessa’s fraught relationship unfurling as Valerie tries to keep hold of her bond with her daughter. The story is heartfelt and intriguing, throwing more secrets and revelations into the mix until the very end.

Thank you to Simon & Schuster for sending me a copy to review

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