Lead Review

  • Book: The Affair
  • Location: Europe, The West Country
  • Author: Hilary Boyd

Review Author: tripfiction




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 and beautiful scenery? I like the cover, too!

Connie and her husband Devan have been married for several decades, and now Devan has retired as the local GP, 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 in order to escape his gruff and lugubrious moods. She loves her job and will not be persuaded to give up her touring just yet and join him in retirement. The future in that sense 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 are turning pretty weird.

The reader will probably have worked out pretty early on that there was a growing creepiness in his devotion to her, and  the burgeoning connection between Connie and her new-found beau didn’t work for me. She liked the attention, yes, but there was neither real build up nor subtle exploration of the connection they were supposed to be making. “It” just happened. Boom. Therefore her attraction to him seemed forced and without any real substance, the scene for what was to come hadn’t to my mind  been credibly fleshed out. And all of a sudden, there she is, sucked in. There is no insight or background why her beau was motivated to do what he did – he therefore had no depth of character as a result, which in turn left a bit of a hole in the story. As a reader I really want to know why he was doing what he was doing.

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

Escape to Lake Como this summer” trumpets the description on Goodreads, but it is a rather misleading strapline for the book. I haven’t counted but there can’t be more than about 40 pages set around this beautiful lake. There are trips to the Scottish Highlands, Italy and to Poland, so the reader does get a bit of a tour thrown in, and indeed there are some very nice and well drawn settings, 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 thin storyline that could be so much more and I really 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 a meaty and psychological astute narrative.

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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 

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Entries close 6th November 2021