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by Maggie O'Farrell
Viking, 2001
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Nov 14th 2001

After You'd GoneBeautifully written, After You'd Gone tells the story of Alice Raikes. Alice is in her late twenties, and she is lying in a hospital bed, comatose. Her family, parents Ann and Ben, and her sisters, come to visit her. They love her, and wonder what led her to step out in front of a car. Was she trying to kill herself? If she was, then what led her to such despair?

The life of the three women of the Raikes family unfolds in these pages. The narrative switches from between Elspeth, who was Ann's mother-in-law, Ann, and Alice herself. The perspective also switches between first and third person. Most startling are the switches in time, jumping from Ann's childhood, her marriage to Ben and move to the Raikes family home in North Berwick in Scotland, Alice's early years, and Alice's life as an adult.

Alice is passionate, and she knows what she wants. She has explosive emotions that make her do crazy things. She rebels against her mother's control, while her father keeps mostly out of the picture. But eventually Alice settles down into a job in London, and she meets the love of her life, John.

I don't want to any more about the plot - the pleasure of the novel is for readers to piece it together for themselves. Suffice to say, there are hidden depths, sometimes dark, to many of these characters. Tragedy and betrayal are prominent themes, and the portrayal of loss here is as powerful as the initial scenes of the movie Truly, Madly, Deeply.

What is so impressive about this novel is the way the multifaceted narrative manages to be far more than just a clever device - it succeeds in telling the story with heartbreaking power.

Available from Amazon.co.uk

© 2001 Christian Perring. First Serial Rights.

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is editor of Metapsychology Online Review. His main research is on philosophical issues in psychiatry. He is especially interested in exploring how philosophers can play a greater role in public life. He is available to give talks on many philosophical or controversial issues in mental health.