I found this book to be something of a 'curate's egg.'.as they say 'good in parts'.
We begin our tale as Gally and Mike drive around the countryside looking at houses for sale in the west of England. The couple are grieving for the child Gally has recently miscarried. She is a mass of anxieties and neuroses; some as a reaction to her recent experiences,and others she has carried with her since losing her father in a terrible accident. Mike is doing everything in his power to help her, at no small cost to himself. As they approach a hold up in the road caused by an elderly man narrowly avoiding being run over by a truck, Gally finds herself inexplicably overcome by distress and panic, causing them to take a rapid detour via a nearby village.
This detour turns out to be a crucial event as they come across a run down cottage ..Mike can see at once how much work would be involved in making it inhabitable but for Gally there is something about the place that she is drawn to; something that makes her feel at home in a way she has never felt before. Looking around the old ruin, an elderly man suddenly appears..and for Gally it is a momentous meeting. She can't explain it even to herself, but she recognises something in him..something that calms her and intrigues her . This man, we learn, is Ferney..
In the course of the book we are told that Galley and Ferney have met before; indeed they have loved each other in more than one lifetime. We follow them through history as they meet and part and meet and part again..and we watch how Gally's present day marriage begins to be affected by her relationship with this outwardly elderly man. And finally Gally is reminded of a decision they made in the past..a decision that could change her future forever should she decide to honour it..
I loved the description of the countryside and the historical detail. I also am a sucker for the idea of the 'split-apart'; the couple separated by time and space,destined to be together. But where things slightly fell down for me was in the characterisation of Gally herself. I feel slightly guilty in that she was grieving and therefore entitled to be unhappy..but for me I felt she was self-centred and unsympathetic. I felt sorry for her husband who,out of love, had given up a dream job in the USA just to take care of her, and who,I felt was being totally short-changed. The difficulty with a love affair that the protagonists are 'powerless to resist' as Ferney and Gally's might be characterised, is that there's almost always somebody who gets hurt..and I didn't want that for Mike. He didn't deserve it..
As the book draws to a close Mike and Gally are still married, but it isn't as simple as that..I look forward to reading the sequel 'The Lives She Left Behind 'and finding out if they have a future together.