This is one of the most emotional books I have read in a long time.
I was crying hard when I finished its last pages, and I really couldn’t put it down. It is interesting that there are no good and bad people in this novel. They are all victims. I felt sorry for Romilly but also quite frustrated. It must be horrible when a relative of yours is suffering from something you can’t help them with. David must have felt helpless as he saw the woman he had loved so much destroy herself. The only person I disliked in this book was Sara. It is true that she wasn’t Romilly’s keeper, and it was Romilly who chose to drink and go with her when Sara appeared. Yet, Sara proved to be such a lousy friend. She knew that Romilly had been in a rehab centre to fight her addiction, but she still lured her to drink. If she had been a true friend, she had cared for Romilly better than what she did. I think Sara was so miserable because of her divorce that she wanted to see other people miserable as well.
The turning point in Romilly’s decay was when she woke up naked in a stranger’s bed, smelling of sex and booze. David would have finished things off then and there hadn’t it been for his mother, who convinced to give their marriage another chance. Romilly was sent for the second time to a clinic, and this time in Austria. The problem both times is that Romilly didn’t own up her problem; she didn’t consider herself an alcoholic as she thought it was just a little bump she had to sort out. She didn’t really like to be helped, and then when she returned home, it took just months for her relapse. Jasper, who she met at the first clinic, appeared, and that was what it took for her to drink again and forget about her little girl who she had to pick up from school or her family. This was the last straw, and David kicked her out. Romilly found refuge in Sara’s place, and she proved to be even a fouler friend when not long afterwards she asked her to leave just because she hadn’t stood up to David when he had insulted Sara.
From that moment it is painful to see the degradation that Romilly gets to. One very emotional moment is when David meets her in a café and poses a question. He places a bottle of vodka on the table, and asks her to choose. He and Celeste or the bottle? Romilly chooses the bottle. How terribly an addiction can get hold of someone that they forget everything. We know how much Romilly loved David and Celeste, so how terrible that election was.
From then on she goes into a spiral of self-destruction. She gets together with Jasper and her friends, and that stint only ends when some burly men raid the place where she was staying, getting drunk continuously and having sex with different men. That day she ends up in a park bench and passes out, and there is an episode of a body behind her and forcing itself into her in exchange of a bottle of vodka, which she accepts eagerly. It is later when she wakes up and finds her little girl with a friend walking in the park, and her heart breaks. She decides to go to London and get some help.
The road to rehabilitation isn’t easy. She is helped by a priest, and even though she progresses nicely, she has relapses. One is when she gets a letter from David, informing her that he has met someone and wants a divorce. That sends her over the edge, but Father Brian helps her back. Another low point is when she learns that Jasper has killed himself, and she almost follows him in his footsteps as she jumps into the Thames. Thankfully, she is rescued and saved.
When she finally returns to Bristol, she has reached a milestone and is able to acknowledge she is an alcoholic. Back then she is almost on the verge of falling into temptation when David asks her for a divorce, and she almost loses her. Yet, even though she goes into a pub and buys herself a drink, she is capable of resisting, which she feels is a big victory.
The parts with Celeste’s entries are very emotional too. I felt sorry for Romilly because of everything she had lost as a mother even though it was her fault. Annie, David’s new partner, came to be a good addition and positive for Celeste, but it is sad that Romilly couldn’t enjoy the moments she deserved as a mother. Celeste even desired for her mother to be dead, which is logical. She had gone through so much as a little girl, and with Annie she got the stability she hadn’t had with her mother. Thankfully, when Romilly returns to Bristol, she accepts to see her, and even though their first encounter is awkward, things become better. I think Annie going to meet Romilly was really helpful, and I think Annie became the conduit that led mother and daughter to an understanding. It was lovely to read how Celeste finally tells her mother how much she loves him, and the final chapter with Celeste getting ready for her wedding, and her two parents standing there with her was lovely. There was no bitterness, and they even talked about their wedding as one of the best moments in their life. That was quite bittersweet, and I feel for them and for the love they have lost.
What a book! I loved it, and I know it will stay with me for a long time. There are some books I enjoy and like, but I tend to forget their plots in the end. Yet, there are a few special books that stay with me forever. I might not remember the characters’ names, but I remember the plot and everything else.