Published: 2014 by Michael Joseph | Page: 372
Maddy, dressed in white, stands at the back of the church. At the end of the aisle is Rob – the man she’s about to marry. Next to Rob is Ben – best man and the best friend any two people ever had.
And that’s the problem.
Because if it wasn’t Rob waiting for her at the altar, there’s a strong chance it would be Ben. Loyal and sensitive, Ben has always kept his feelings to himself, but if he turned round and told Maddy she was making a mistake, would she listen? And would he be right?
Best friends since childhood, Maddy, Ben and Rob thought their bond was unbreakable. But love changes everything. Maddy has a choice to make but will she choose wisely? Her heart, and the hearts of the two best men she knows, depend on it . . .
Having read ‘Billy and Me’ last year and really enjoying it, I finally got around to reading Giovanna’s next book! I had quite high expectations for this book, and I was not disappointed.
So Giovanna uses the classical ‘love triangle’ as a key theme in the plot line. Childhood friends since primary school, Ben, Maddy and Rob are clearly destined for some turbulent times. I liked the way a specific trait was really played upon by Giovanna through each character. For Ben it was his sensitivity, and care for his two best friends, as well as his awareness of the impact that his true feelings for Maddy would have on the dynamic of their friendship. (Not forgetting that Ben is initially set up as the character who has an evolving emotional capacity due to his father leaving etc.) Maddy is pitted as ‘one of the lads’ at first, but as the novel progresses and the characters mature, she becomes the focus for both Rob and Ben. Whereas Rob is used to represent the ‘laddish’, sporty type you always find pitted against the sensitive type in novels. Giovanna is taking classical tropes of men in literature, and bringing them into contemporary romance literature!
Having established strong character types, the development of the book focuses on key points in Maddy, Ben’s and Rob’s friendship. It begins when they first meet in primary school, addresses the move into high school, and how they begin to fall into the character profiles of ‘sensitive’ Ben, ‘over masculine’ Rob, and ‘desired’ Maddy. Giovanna works her way through the decisions of A-Levels, university life – where the three find themselves separated – and adult life.
Before we address the turning point within the book, firstly I think you’ve got to look at the underlying development, and subtle inclusion of Ben’s growing love for Maddy. The reader is first made aware of this when the three are at primary school – ‘the three squeezes’ is used as a physical metaphor of Ben’s love. They represent ‘I love you’. This becomes a subtle inclusion within the book whenever Ben and Maddy are close with each other – except Maddy is none the wiser. This cleverly emphasis Maddy’s naivety to the situation, and allows the reader to feel a sense of foresight in relation to Maddy’s relationship with Ben, as well as Rob.
A similar technique is used to reveal Maddy’s secret desire for Rob which once again places the reader in a privileged position, and allows them to almost second guess the plot.
Rob and Maddy eventually become a couple during high school, the reader is then witness to stereotypical expectations of teenagers – awakening of sexual desire, confused and complicated feelings as well as the heartbreak Ben feels for his loss of Maddy. Giovanna introduces Maddy’s possible interest in Ben – subconsciously for Maddy – when the three of them try to continue their friendship as it was before Maddy and Rob’s relationship. Not only does this intensify Ben’s feelings for her, but also conveys the subtly with which Giovanna has used the ‘love triangle’ theme.
It’s now important to focus upon the university stage as Giovanna chooses to again, capitalise on the social norms, and expectations of 18-21 year old’s found within a university setting. For example, drunken nights out, mislaid sexual encounters and (sometimes) being held accountable for your mistakes.
While both Maddy and Ben are enjoying their time at Bristol, Rob is separated from them and studies at Plymouth. (Admittedly Ben accepts his second choice of Bristol which in turn allows him to be closer to Maddy). It is during this time that Rob is unfaithful, and Maddy learns of Ben’s true feelings and realises that she feels the same. However, Giovanna plays on Ben’s sense of loyalty and Maddy’s need to be loved, but also to be loyal and resolves the tension by introducing Alice – this eradicates the ‘love triangle’ but leaves the romantic tension between Ben and Maddy simmering away in the background.
We then travel through engagements for the three which again only highlights Maddy’s love for both men. At this point you could almost argue that while Maddy and Rob seem to have matured, Ben’s sensitivity as almost turned into anxiety culminating in knee jerk reactions and ill thought out choices. Ultimately Ben seems to unintentionally destroy his best options (i.e. making Alice his wife), and turns to a belated gap year to disappear from the book for a while.
To conclude the book, the reader finds themselves back at the start of the book – Maddy is about to walk down the altar – however we now realise how important this is – she is finally making her choice! Ben squeezes Maddy’s hand for the final 3 times it seems during the wedding reception. This action becomes a symbol of closure and finality. We are then offered a snapshot of the three friend’s future lives with children etc, just o round the book off.
I think the book could have been made grittier in places, and the intensity of emotions could have been thrust into the forefront, but ultimately I yet again really enjoyed this book and would recommend to anyone who loves a good turbulent romance story! Another 5-star read!