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Novel set in the West Country and across Europe

18th August 2021

The Affair by Hilary Boyd, novel set in the West Country and across Europe.

Novel set in the West Country and across Europe

I was lured to read this novel because the blurb heavily mentioned Lake Como, and who wouldn’t be tempted by a bit of Italian sunshine, food and wine, along with beautiful scenery? I like the cover, too!

Connie and her husband Devan have been married for several decades. Devan has now retired as the local GP and as a couple they have hit a rough patch. He is sliding into drinking and depression, as he has lost his focus, and she is only too happy to nip off on her various trips abroad as a European tour guide to avoid his gruff and lugubrious moods. She loves her job and will not be cajoled into giving up her touring just yet and join him in retirement. The future doesn’t look particularly rosy.

On her trip to Lake Como, she is flattered by the attentions of one of her clients and she becomes smitten by his turquoise eyes. It is at first a simple and confidence-restoring dalliance, but when he materialises on one of her next trips, she succumbs to a knee trembler down a cobbled street. And from there on in she is hooked until it dawns on her that perhaps things aren’t as she first imagined.

The reader will probably work out early on that there is a growing creepiness around what is happening; what didn’t really work for me was the relationship between Connie and her new-found beau. She likes the attention, yes, but there is neither real build up nor subtle exploration of the connection they are supposed to be making. “It” just happens. Boom. Therefore her attraction to him seems forced and without any real substance and context; in other words, the scene for what is to come hasn’t really been credibly laid out. All of a sudden, there she is, sucked in. There is no insight or background why her beau is motivated to behave in the way he does – consequently he has no depth of character and for me that felt like a gap in the story.

Quite how she unpicks herself from this whole situation is the tenet of the narrative (after she has her long awaited damascene moment).

The description on Goodreads trumpets “Escape to Lake Como this summer“, but it is a rather misleading strapline for the book. I haven’t counted but there can’t be more than about 30 or 40 pages (7% on kindle) set around this beautiful lake. Subsequently there are trips to the Scottish Highlands, Italy and to Poland, so the reader does get a bit of a tour thrown in. Indeed, the settings are well drawn and nicely depicted, but much of the novel is set in Connie’s home village in the West Country and briefly in London.

It feels like a rather thinly plotted storyline, with such potential for a really meaty pas-de-deux of psychological drama; I hoped there would be a crescendo of psychological fireworks as the book came to its conclusion…. But you can decide for yourself if the ending merits the ‘heart stopping‘ moniker. The writing, however, is really very good and that kept me looped in, hoping that the story would develop into an astute narrative about temptation and adult intimate relationships.

Tina for the TripFiction Team

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Enter the 2021TripFiction 'Sense of Place' Creative Writing Competition!

A story in which the location plays as important a role as the rest of your words.

2,500 word maximum, 750 word minimum

Judges include Victoria Hislop and Rosanna Ley

First Prize of £1,000 / US$1,350

Prizes total £1,750 / US$2,362 

Winning entry published on TripFiction site and publicised on Social Media

Entries close 6th November 2021