Afterwards – Charlotte Leonard

Published By: Simon and Schuster
Pages: 464
Released On: 14/04/2022

When Emma gets home after work one evening, she calls hello to her husband Jay, as she always does. Stepping into the kitchen, she sees he has done the shopping, as she had reminded him to; remembered to buy peppercorns; has bought her flowers. Everything is neatly put away.

But Jay is not there. He is upstairs. And he has ended his own life, seemingly out of nowhere and leaving no note to explain.

A photographer, all Jay has left behind is his camera containing five photographs, which are unlike his other work. Desperately trying to comprehend the incomprehensible and struggling to cope in a house that no longer feels like home, Emma follows the images to Cornwall, beginning a journey in which old relationships are re-written and new ones are formed. As the visual mystery of each photograph unfolds, Emma finds herself unravelling and perilously close to breaking point. But could her unlikely salvation lie in the sea, a small community of swimmers and the promise of something Emma thought she didn’t want?

*****

Thanks to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for the advanced copy of this title in return for an honest review.

My ideal book length is around 300-350 pages, so at over 460, this had the potential to be quite difficult to get through, but it was anything but. I was zooming along and finished it in about 5 hours. What helped was it was full of short chapters – some only 1-2 pages long – which I prefer.

Charlotte has found the perfect balance in describing grief. I lost a childhood friend to suicide a few years ago, and whilst we didn’t have the relationship discussed in this book, all the elements of grief are there, all the ugliness. I’ve always found it difficult to put grief into words, even when you’ve felt it so strongly, but Charlotte’s done a tremendous job. I hate to think what experience she has had in order to write like this. It is raw and honest and soulful, right from the first couple of pages.

Amongst the heartbreak, the description of Cornwall is just so beautiful. Not only the physical landscape, but what Cornwall can do for people, how it can help you heal.

Annoyingly for a book reviewer, I don’t have enough words to describe just how special this book is. It’s inviting and engaging and emotionally thrilling.

It’s not hugely plot driven, but I like that, when you grieve – or at least when I did – you’re not wholly aware of life going around you; it’s very insular. This is very character and emotional driven and I think that’s the real highlight.

It’s not my job to tell you what books to buy, only to tell you what I think of them. In this case, I think you should buy it and read it immediately.

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