Oh, Secret Book Club, I love you. I love you for always giving me a book I never would choose and then letting me be honest about it.
‘The Love of A Lifetime’ is an odd book; it’s a novel about an old, old man dying of cancer on the family farm. The basic premise of the story is that Richard Wilde is determined to tell his story before he dies. It’s a complicated story: lots of speculation about his parentage, childhood memories and the love he has for his brother’s wife which never goes away.
It’s also a story about Richard’s life in the army, both before and during the Second World War. There’s lots of heroic, gory moments and casual racism against the Japanese. This book is not what you’d call a ‘romp’.
Richard lives on a farm and suffers lots of hardships, until a girl called Elizabeth comes to help after his father’s death. He falls in love with her, but she marries his slightly psycho brother. In a fit of pique, Richard decides against going to university and instead joins the army, staying away from home for years. When he comes back, just before war, things are a bit out of sorts. Instead of facing up to the issues, he rekindles his love for Elizabeth and, well, leaves behind a little reminder of himself. There is a sub-plot involving his carer in the present day and the ending of this you can pretty much spot coming a mile off.
I did manage to read this book in its entirety and, when I took a look at the Amazon reviews of it, all but one were massively positive. This sort of surprised me and also didn’t. I think that this book is aimed very squarely at a certain type of reader who love the ‘hero-who-has-unattainable-love-and-then-blows-it-when-he-gets-a-chance’. It sort of reminded me a bit of a Catherine Cookson novel.
I didn’t hate this book, but I didn’t love it either. I decided to keep reading out of loyalty for the Secret Book Club and was pleased I finished it. I read it over Christmas and I would say it’s a contender for a good (if slightly depressing) holiday read: you don’t need to think too much.