The Very Thought of You by, Rosie Alison
The Very Thought of You is definitely a book with hidden depths. In it, 8-year-old Anna Sands is sent away from her mother in London (in preparation for the upcoming Blitz) to stay at an impromptu boarding school for evacuees in palatial Ashton Park- home of Thomas Ashton and his wife.
On the surface the book details the lives and loves of certain Britons during WWII but once the reader gets to the heart of the book the reader realizes that he is not simply reading a ‘love story’ but instead a story that explores the notion of love- what is it? why is it? is it good or bad?
Ms. Alison is able to create characters that ring true, and put them in situations different than your typical love stories. Here we do not have the two lovers kept apart but unfair circumstances but then finally get together in the final act, but instead, character after character that can’t seem to get this ‘love thing’- that everyone else understands so easily- down. And once they do find love they are met with tragic results, of course. Even the title of the book doesn’t reference, as one would think, our main romantic paring, but instead another couple (Anna’s parents) who are a dubious love pairing at best.
While this book was ultimately a really enjoyable read, there were two odd things that I had problems with, the first being that too often Anna crops up to be at hand or get the attention of the adults at Ashton Park, such as when she’s able to eaves-drop on, not one, not two, but three intimate episodes with Thomas and his lady loves, or how she’s always at hand to run an errand- it all makes it seem a little forced and I don’t think it’s particularly necessary that she had to be that familiar with Thomas’ secrets to have formed her attachment to him.
The other thing was I got the odd feeling of wondering what or who exactly this book was about until quite near the end, due in part to the fact that the story is told from many points-of-view- from the inexplicable chapters from the point-of-view of the Nortons (nice but really they could have been completely cut out), to the somewhat superfluous points-of-view of Roberta and even Elizabeth. Perhaps simply focusing on Anna and Thomas’ experiences would have allowed Ms. Alison to more directly express the main themes of the story, as well as stream-lining a bit of the plot.
Overall though, The Very Thought of You is a nice look at what it means to love and the value of imperfect, fleeting, or even one-sided love.
Note: This book was a Goodreads First Read.