Another Life by Jodie Chapman

Having read so many great reviews about Another Life, I was over the moon to get my mitts on a beautiful, finished copy of this highly coveted book.  I picked it up initially planning to only read a couple of chapters before going to do something that seemed very important at the time, I quickly found out why this cover design was chosen.  Before very long at all, I was 108 pages into the book, and that thing which was very important never got done.  Even now I still couldn’t tell you what it was.


A stunning one-that-got-away romance, this is an intricate story of love entwined with loss that will tug on your heartstrings . . . a beautiful piece of writing.’
OK!


what it says on the cover …

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.

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.


PUBLISHED: 1st April 2021
SHELF: fiction | romance
AUTHOR: Jodie Chapman
PUBLISHER: Michael Joseph (Penguin)
FORMATS: Hardback | Kindle



‘Isn’t it something when you feel life greater than you ever hoped for, rushing through your veins? When love comes looking.
Nothing lasts forever. This is not a drill.
Extract


my review

At its heart, Another Life is a book about the different kinds of love that shape us; parental love, sibling love, and romantic love. It puts an array of jarringly raw emotions under the microscope … love, fear and envy, grief and guilt. None of the relationships are airbrushed here; each is analysed with all its wonky bits and wobbly bits and baggage in frank, unsentimental detail. It explores love under the distorting pressures of everyday life, the things that stand in its way, and the things that look odd to outsiders but which make perfect sense to the two on the inside.


“My name sounded foreign on her tongue.  I’d rarely heard her say it, and there was something unsettling in her use of a word so familiar to me.  It is strange how in the most intimate relationships, a name becomes pointless and redundant.  It’s replaced by another word – Mum, Darling, Dear – formations of letters imbued with something stronger. Few have permission to use these words. Our names are labels for strangers.”


Another Life is the achingly intimate love story of Nick and Anna who meet in the summer of 2003 whilst working at their local cinema.  Their romance is as potent as the seasonal heat, with Anna’s fervent intensity offsetting Nick’s steady quietude.  However, this is a relationship with a limited shelf-life;  Anna’s life is tied by the uncompromising strictures of her religion, and she’s taking a great risk by following her heart.  Their fledgling relationship is short lived, but fate has bigger plans for them both and their paths collide time and time again in chapters that thrum with an almost voyeuristic vibrancy. 

I’m not Anna’s greatest fan during these early years. I admire her frankness, but I struggle to comprehend how a fiercely intelligent young woman can be so constrained and controlled by the doctrines of a religion so at odds with the modern secular life that forms my own frame of reference. Having said that, I found myself learning a lot about the beliefs of the Jehovah’s Witness faith, and that in itself was enlightening.  There is an element of autobiographical insight infusing this book, and the author’s voice shines out through Anna’s character. My opinion of Anna evolves significantly as the book progresses, and when she comes back into Nick’s life one last time, I see her with fresh eyes, just as she’s viewing the world anew.  This was an Anna I liked … a lot.

Nick’s way of introducing us to his younger brother, Sal, is breathtaking in its immediacy … it’s actually where the book starts; in Manhattan on Christmas Eve 2018.  This deeply affecting opening chapter concentrates the enormity of a few months, and a lifetime of shared memories, into just seven pages.  It’s the reason why I couldn’t put the book down for a very, very long time.  

The brothers’ close relationship is an absolute charm to read, written with a delightful tenderness by the author.  Unlike Nick, Sal wears his heart on his sleeve; he’s passionate and fiery and outspoken, and yet in many ways they couldn’t be closer.  But, like Nick, he’s deeply troubled by an event from the boys’ childhood … a life-changing moment that Nick later shares with reader when he invites us deeper into their lives through a nostalgic abundance of chapters set in the late eighties and early nineties.  These chapters have that glow about them which seems to suffuse memories of summer holidays and old childhood photos; a bit out of focus and where the emotional imprint is perhaps clearer than the image itself.  They lulled me into a wonderful bucolic calm, making the emotional punch all the more shattering when Nick reaches that moment in his reminiscing. Suddenly, like a spell being broken, observations and fragments from earlier chapters fell into place, creating a clearer picture of Nick.

One of my favourite characters in the book is Eve; although in many ways she’s never there, her presence and her absence permeate almost every chapter of the book. Her own love story – her marriage to Paul – is a relationship that doesn’t make sense to outside observers.  Paul, is a tricky character to like – lazy, cold, unpredictable. By contrast, Eve’s warmth and humanity spill out of the page and it’s clear she’s a source of strength for Paul, as well as beautifully-written mother to Nick and Sal. Her emotion intelligence and intuition are intoxicating, but it’s not until the end of the book that Nick reveals when and how he learned her greatest secret, and the source of his father’s demons.

Another Life is an all-consuming book that gives all your emotional responses a thorough workout.  I mentioned at the start of this review that the story contains grief, guilt and envy, none of which make for light reading.  But this is a story that’s absolutely packed with hope and love.  It’s uplifting and heartwarming, with an ending that encapsulates the power of having faith in other people, the courage not to hide from life’s worst moments, and the thrill of relinquishing shackles.

With the exception of occasional, first-person emails from Anna and Sal, letters from Nick’s mother, and some of Anna’s poems, this book is narrated entirely by Nick. We see every single character through Nick’s eyes, hear about them in Nick’s words, and bear witness to his bond with each of them.  In many ways this book feels almost like a confession, a heart-to-heart between Nick and someone whom he wants to have know him better … the book doesn’t offer up who that person might be, so I like to think it was me.  Just as it could be you when you pick up this powerfully evocative book.

Thank you to Ellie Hughes at Penguin for sending me a beautiful, finished copy of Another Life in return for an honest, impartial review. And thanks also NetGalley for approving my request for a digital copy! There’s no such thing as too many books!


jodie chapman


Jodie’s first love was always writing, but she got side-tracked over the years. After spending over a decade as a wedding photographer, she picked up her pen for the first time since school and began to write a story. That story became her debut novel Another Life, publishing spring 2021 with Penguin Michael Joseph.

Jodie lives in a Kent village with her husband, three sons and cat Annie Hall.

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