The Very Thought of You – Rosie Alison

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Short listed for Orange Prize 2010, Short listed for Amazon’s Rising Stars award 2009, Long listed for the RNA Romantic novel of the year 2010, Long listed for the Le Prince Maurice Prize for Literary Love Stories 2010

The Very Thought of You is set during WWII and follows eight-year-old Anna as she is evacuated to a large country house in Yorkshire. The house belongs to a childless couple, Thomas and Elizabeth Ashton, who decided to covert their home into a school in the hope that children will bring some happiness back into their lives. Unfortunately the children only seem to exacerbate their problems and their marriage falls apart.

The theme of the book appears to be loving someone that you can’t have. All the characters seem to be in love with someone that they cannot be with; whether that is due to being separated by war or yearning to be with someone already in a relationship.

The Very Thought of You was very readable and I finished it quite quickly, but it left no lasting impression on me. There were too many characters and so each one failed to develop its own identity, all seeming to have the same voice.

The book also lacked atmosphere – I couldn’t picture the places mentioned or feel the emotions each character experienced.

Overall I’d describe it as a light romance book, similar in style to The Morning Gift by Eva Ibbotson.  I have no idea why it was short listed for the Orange prize.

Opinions seem to be divided on this one:

…it is intelligently written with an eye for detail… The Truth About Lies

It is the narratorial voice that kills it stone-dead for me. Eve’s Alexandria

This is an impressive book, particularly as a debut novel. Pursewarden

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  1. vivienne says:

    Hmm, it seems surprising that it is up for so many awards,when it left you almost bored. It reminds me of the The Quickening Maze by Adam Foulds, which I could not for the life of me, understand how it had reached the final six of The Man Booker Prize! Wouldn’t you just love to be on one of these judging panels.

    1. Jackie says:

      vivienne, I’m not surprised it was long listed for the romance awards – I think it deserves to be listed for those, but this book just doesn’t compare to books like Hearts and Minds, The Rehearsal and The Help.

      I wasn’t a fan of The Quickening Maze, but I can at least see why it made the short list. I’d love to know why The Very Thought of You beat the books I mentioned above though!

  2. Verity says:

    I completely and entirely agree with your last sentence! Perfectly enjoyable but orange list material definitely not.

    1. Jackie says:

      Verity, Yes, perfectly enjoyable, but not special enough to win an award as important as the Orange.

  3. Stephanie says:

    I absolutely hate it when a book fails to make an impression on me. I would prefer to hate a book than feel nothing at all for it.

    1. Jackie says:

      Stephanie, I’m not sure about that, although I do find it easier to write reviews for books I hate!

  4. Amy says:

    Sounds alright but not memorable. I have to agree with other commenters and say I’m surprised it was up for so many awards.

    1. Jackie says:

      Amy, It is OK. It is a nice, light read. I would even recommend it to some people, but just confused at its inclusion on the Orange list.

  5. Steph says:

    Well, at the risk of being a broken record, now I’m even more disappointed that The Rehearsal didn’t make the short list but this did! I know not everyone will like The Rehearsal, but I feel like it definitely makes an impression!

    1. Jackie says:

      Steph, Exactly! I’d say the same thing about Hearts and Minds too. The Very Thought of You was entertaining, but had nothing novel or unique about it. Those Orange judges baffle me!

  6. Sandy says:

    To me, a forgettable book is about as close to a literary travesty as you can get. I’d rather hate it than forget it. Honestly, the author had quite a bit of material to work with, setting it in WWII. Appreciate the head’s up!

    1. Jackie says:

      Sandy, I have seen other people comment about how the war was just a plot device rather than a setting used to create atmosphere etc. I agree with them – the war wasn’t included enough – it just seemed to be an easy way to force various characters apart.

  7. Bina says:

    I´ve seen this book everywhere and the premise and the cover look really great. I thought it´d be more about the couple´s marriage and the backdrop of WWII. Lack of atmosphere is something that really turns me off reading a book.

    1. Jackie says:

      Bina, The marriage and the war are both quite minor parts of the book, but there are so many characters and events happening that nothing really stands out as the main event.

  8. Jenners says:

    Sounds like a middling book from what you said. I love your specific criticisms.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenners, Middling is a good word for this book!

  9. Elise says:

    I’m really keen to read this one, I’ve read a lot of great reviews of it. However there is nothing I dislike more than a book lacking in atmosphere. Hmmm…

    1. Jackie says:

      Elise, It is very readable so you might as well try it for yourself. I’ll be interested to see you thoughts!

  10. Iris says:

    Like Bina, I’ve seen this book around and I really liked the sound of it. I’m sorry to hear that it left you underwhelmed. The lack of distinct character development and atmosphere would be a problem to me as well. I have to admit I’m still curious, but I might read it from the library instead of buying it. Like so many others, from your description I’m surprised it was up for so many awards.

  11. Kathleen says:

    I don’t like light romance so I don’t think I’d like this.

  12. Andreea says:

    Hmm, too bad. I have this on my wish list… I don’t know if I still want to read it now…But I think I will still give it a try. Thanks for your honest thoughts.

  13. nomadreader says:

    I had a similar reaction to you. I really enjoyed it while I was reading it, I responded well to its themes, but there’s not a ton of depth there. I did like it, but I agree I’m somewhat baffled as to why it’s on the short list. It’s a good book, and I think Alison is a good writer (I’ll certainly look forward to her next novel because I enjoyed the story and her writing), but it’s not award caliber.

  14. We had a similar response to this one: I can definitely think of other readers who would have enjoyed this one more than I did. I didn’t feel the lack of atmosphere that you mention — Ashton Park resonated for me — but, in the end, it was simply a nice, light read which only seems lacking when placed alongside novels that were designed to be complex and multi-layered.


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