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Monday, 8 June 2015

If I Knew You Were Going To Be This Beautiful I Never Would Have Let You Go by Judy Chicurel

If I Knew You Were Going To Be This Beautiful I Never Would Have Let You Go By Judy Chicurel 

This is a beautifully atmospheric book. The story of Katie, growing up on Long Island in the 1970s, is sensitively sketched and the use of language is exquisite. There’s a heady mix of youth, adventure, love and tragedy about it.

It tells of the pain of growing up, the pain of not being sure what your place in the world really is, and the loneliness of not being with the person you want to be with. Katie is waiting for something to happen, to change her life and give it meaning. She knows she wants that to involve Luke, but Luke has come back from Vietnam damaged, and she doesn’t know whether she’ll ever be able to get through to him.

Around her, the other inhabitants of the community make and break relationships, get high on drugs and alcohol, get pregnant and get abortions. And slowly they start to move away. First Maggie, then Ginger, then Georgie: moving to new places and new lives. Leaving Katie behind.

The structure of the novel is quite complex. There is a linear thread that follows Katie through the summer while she waits for Luke to notice her, but there are also a number of sections that travel back in time and almost provide separate stories in themselves.

As a result of this there are some lovely character cameos; glimpsed for a short time only and then gone. One of the best is Martha Muldoon. She works with Katie in the A&P store, and everyone hates her until one day she shows her human side by trying to help a customer get away with goods she can’t afford, and gets sacked for her trouble. It is a testament to the writing that these characters are just as real as those we get to spend more time with.

There is a lyrical and dreamlike quality to this novel, and I enjoyed it very much. Now that it’s over, I’ll really miss Katie.

Thanks very much to the publishers for a review copy of this book.

You can find out more here.

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