I received an ARC of this book via Penguin (Michael Joseph) and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Disclaimer: This book contains death, grief and suicide so proceed with caution if these are things that might be triggering.
She could be the girl dancing on tables one night, and the next she’d be hiding in the shadows.
Just when I thought I understood her, she would melt away and become a completely new person, and I’d have to start all over again.
That’s how it was with Anna.
Nick and Anna work the same summer job at their local cinema. Anna is mysterious, beautiful, and from a very different world to Nick.
She’s grown up preparing for the End of Days, in a tightly-controlled existence where Christmas, getting drunk and sex before marriage are all off-limits.
So when Nick comes into her life, Anna falls passionately in love. Their shared world burns with poetry and music, cigarettes and conversation – hints of the people they hope to become.
But Anna, on the cusp of adulthood, is afraid to give up everything she’s ever believed in, and everyone she’s ever loved. She walks away, and Nick doesn’t stop her.
Years later, a tragedy draws Anna back into Nick’s life.
But rekindling their relationship leaves Anna and Nick facing a terrible choice between a love that’s endured decades, and the promises they’ve made to others along the way.
As seems to be customary with me, I judged this one based on the cover and – like they always say – you shouldn’t. I assumed this one would be a lighthearted love story with just a dash of tragedy mixed in. It was a love story of course but oh my god I was not expecting this one.
The story takes the reader from the 1980s right through to the present, as Nick Mendoza meets Anna at his job at his local cinema. This is so much more than a typical boy-meets-girl story as Chapman explores a relationship that transcends physical attraction but can’t go further due to Anna’s strict religious beliefs. I’m not particularly religious myself and, due to my Catholic school education, my knowledge of other religions is pretty lacking, so it was interesting to read about different religious practices and customs – which Chapman is well informed in having been brought up in a similar way.
I’m so used to reading fluffy romances that this one threw me off, I found myself at times thinking surely now they can be together?! Chapman creates two characters you can’t help but feel for, and root for, and the fact that there are so many hardships for these two just tugs on the heartstrings. I read this when I craved a light read, not knowing what this book was about in full, and this wasn’t it. It was moving, heart-shattering and difficult at times.
I think Nick was hard to warm to at first. I automatically gravitated to Anna first, as I found her narrative more interesting, however – as I read on and discovered more – I realised there was so much more to Nick than I thought.
Though the big thing of this book is the relationship between Nick and Anna, I think the relationship between Nick and his younger brother, Sal, moved me more. The relationship was written so beautifully, and there were so many tender moments amongst the truly gut-punching, I couldn’t help but feel captivated. I think Chapman is brilliant at showcasing human relationships, in a way that is raw, tender and full of nuance – I feel as though people reaching for this book on release will find themselves comparing this one to Sally Rooney’s books, and I can see why!
I think the time jump can be a little confusing at times, and I did find myself having to take a moment to digest or to re-read bits I didn’t take in fully, but I will always enjoy reading books that weave through time and Chapman does this brilliantly – showing how family and romance shape Anna and Nick’s life over time.
Another Life was not the sweet, lighthearted read I anticipated. It was hard, heavy and sometimes it hurt but I think that’s a great feat for a debut author – to move a reader so much with a book. It might not be a book for everyone, but it’s definitely a book that’ll be on your mind for a long time.
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