Ideal Love by Alice Burnett : A Review
Rating : 3/5
Date of Publishing : 14th August, 2017
Ideal Love, the debut novel by Alice Burnett, is an ode to love, loss and life. She explores what it means to lose a loved one and the complex emotional spectrum this event triggers. The story begins at the lowest point in life with a tragedy that everybody dreads and hopes will never happen to them – the death of a spouse at a very young age. From this point onwards, the novel follows the protagonist’s struggle to come to terms with not just the loss of her husband but her search for affirmation that the love they shared was real. Sorting through anger, depression, loss and doubt, Alice Burnett has created a book that accurately portrays the journey from loss to acceptance.
Venus Rees is devastated by the sudden death of her husband Gilles. The loss is intensified as they had a quarrel the previous night and never got a chance to make up. However, when she realizes that he died of a genetic condition which could have been treated, she starts questioning their marriage and his love. Venus struggles with distrust and loss until she meets Alex who seems to be an ideal guy for her. Will Venus be able to overcome her past with Gilles and love once again?
The book is narrated mainly from the dual perspectives of Gilles and Venus and occasionally a few chapters from the point of view of Alex. Through Gilles’s narration, Alice has showcased the initial phase of every relationship – the quickened heartbeats, passion and longing for the presence of your lover, the playfulness and the dreams of future. From the point of view of Venus, we see a more matured relationship at the starting of the novel which soon gives away to grief and misery. Alice has taken us through each level of grief and acceptance – from sadness to anger to acceptance. Through Venus’s journey we see her distrust slowly giving away to belief in their love and life and her realization that her past is something for her to cherish. As Alex comes into the picture, we see a different version of Venus who is struggling to break free of her burden and accept her future without feeling guilty of betraying Gilles. Through these three perspectives, we see different forms of love between the same characters but vastly different in their manifestations. It takes us through the full circle of love, from its rosy blooming to death and back to a fresh start.
The character formation is also excellent with more and more aspects of the characters being revealed to us as the book progresses. A different aspect of each character is exposed to us through their interaction with others and their actions and reactions in the story. The book stands out for me with regards to the conversation and banter between the characters. These conversations feel very natural to the situations the characters are portrayed in and are essential for the progress of the story. Personally, the only imperfection with this otherwise flawless debut novel is that it is not an easy read. Each chapter is narrated either by Gilles or Venus but there is no differentiating factor to help the readers understand who the narrator is. It only becomes self-evident after progressing further into the chapter which made me go back and re-read the chapters keeping the narrator in the mind to get the perspective correctly. This did create quite some confusion for me till the end of the book, which could easily have been avoided.
Overall, a great debut by Alice Burnett who has succeeded in exploring the various realms of love and bereavement in depth through her novel. Excellent characters and writing make this an interesting read.
About the Author :
Alice Burnett grew up on a farm in Devon, England. She studied maths at Cambridge University followed by a degree in philosophy, a subject she is still passionate about. She qualified as a lawyer in the City and worked in London and Paris before leaving law to write full-time. Alice lives in London with her husband and three sons. Ideal Love is her first novel