Title: The Weekends of You and Me
Author: Fiona Walker
Series: – –
Can your final fling become your Happy Ever After?
When Jo Coulson finds herself single again in her late thirties, she finally resigns her membership to Last of the Hopeless Romantics, fully intending to tackle midlife and motherhood alone. First, she plans one legendary last fling…
In walks Harry Inchbold, and the connection is electric. Passionate, unpredictable and messily divorced, Harry is the perfect antidote to cosy coupledom. Known as The Sinner, drama follows him around with a clapper board.
Harry’s favourite holiday hideaway in the wilds of South Shropshire puts the mud and fun into the perfect dirty weekend. But at the cottage Harry reveals a very different side, melting Jo’s resolve. What better combination to face an uncertain future than two cynics who have learned from their mistakes?Together they make a pact; ‘same time next year’; they can promise no more than that.
Through life’s most stressful decade, Harry and Jo return to the Shropshire hills for one weekend each year to rediscover passion and make peace. As career, family and home crises all threaten to bring them unstuck, the cottage is their glue. Here, different rules apply: the day to day world is not allowed to intrude.With Harry and Jo, however, it’s only a matter of time before rules get broken. As real life gets increasingly complicated, can they keep renewing their promise?
Source: ARC from Sphere via NetGalley
This is a curious book. At the start Jo is in her mid-thirties, ready to give up on romance when she meets Harry and decides to have a final fling. This fling leads to a weekend in the country, in a rundown cottage, halfway up a mountain on the Welsh border. Both of them are in emotionally wounded states, but there’s an attraction between them they can’t deny. So they decide to give it a year.
And so starts a series of weekends at the cottage, once a year, spanning from 2006 to 2015. Because of this episodic nature, there’s a lot of recapping and catching up on what has gone on throughout the previous year (and the relationship) and does give the book a strangely distant feel, even in the scenes at the cottage. The visits also fall into a slightly repetitive pattern of the arrival, the first night, the morning lie-in and so on.
Yet despite this slightly odd format, I did enjoy it. I’ll admit I found it compelling purely because of a sense of overhanging doom (thanks to the prologue), but I was also curious to see how the relationship between these two developed, changed and weathered over time. And boy, is there a lot of weathering. Harry’s a pretty dramatic guy and it seems like his life is destined to never be quiet, while Jo worries and worries and worries about money.
As enjoyable as I found it, though, I admit that distant feeling got to me at times – as did the restriction of only seeing life at the cottage. Things like Harry’s anger issues or both of their relationships with Harry’s twin and his own marriage. These things both come somewhat to a head at the cottage, but since they’re not resolved within the walls, I felt like they just petered out. Kind of like things with Cerys, Harry’s divorce, Blue Barn and dear old Rathbone. Not only was this kind of frustrating, but it also muted the emotional impact throughout. The only time I really felt connected to Jo and her emotions was when she spent time at the cottage alone.
Which is a shame, because the idea is intriguing and at times the story is compelling. But the constant struggles they face and the lack of resolution to almost every argument they have grinds everything down. I did find it hard to put down at times, but more because I wanted to get to the point where the prologue left off than because I wanted to know how they actually got there. It definitely feels overlong at some points, running over the same old same old and leaving me impatient to move on to the next year.
I’m a huge fan of Walker’s early books, but this is definitely lacking in the humour, passion and quirkiness of those stories. There are hints of all three here, but the yearly bubble of the cottage is steadily worn away by the realities of everyday life to become a bit of a slog, only slightly lightened by the time-warp publican and his Thai bride. So if you’re coming to it with those early books in mind, you definitely won’t be getting that. Instead this is an interesting take on a decade-long relationship seen a weekend at a time. It’s not a fluffy romantic beach read, but it is a thoughtful exploration of growth and change.
The Weekends of You and Me is Out Now.
Visit Fiona Walker for more details.