Review of Jane’s Away by Clare Hawken

In the interests of transparency, Clare is a friend of mine and was my next-door neighbour when we lived in Zambia. I have known her since we were both kids!  

When I first met Clare she always – and I mean always – had her head in a book.  She was constantly reading, and I was fascinated by this, because I thought I read a lot until I met her!

I then discovered through her letters to me at boarding school – (yes, we both went to boarding school and yes, we did write to each other – no email in those days!) that she was quite the talented writer.  Her letters were always witty, eloquent, and never ever boring.

I am thrilled to see her first book on Amazon, and I couldn’t wait to read it.  I am always honest in my reviews whether the person is a friend or not, but I think if I had truly hated the book, I wouldn’t have reviewed it! These are the joys of having your own blog – you can do what you like!

Fortunately, I am delighted to say that I am far from hating it.   

The narrative is written in the third person, as we are introduced to Roger Kurmudge on his retirement day. It is evident from the start that Roger is interested in one person – himself. He is vaguely aware of others including his wife Jane, in so far as she is there like a comfortable pair of shoes that you don’t realize how much you love until you lose them.

Jane heads off to the hospital to have a day procedure – a mole removed.  Roger duly turns up after his retirement bash to pick her up and discovers that not only is she not at the hospital, but she is not at home, and he has no idea where she has gone.

This is the beginning of Roger’s awakening.  The novel sets out to show what happens when you have taken someone for granted your whole married life and suddenly, they are not there. The realization dawns on Roger that Jane looked after everything, and not only did she do it without complaint, but she loved him even though he didn’t deserve it.   He also discovers that she has a life of which he was totally unaware.  Quite the rude awakening!

The reader is left guessing as to where Jane has gone, why and will she ever return – all questions that Roger asks himself every day as his despair increases.

For me it is the characterization that makes this novel so strong.  Roger’s grandson Alfie is a wonderful character and adds much laughter and poignancy to the book.  He is immediately endearing by dint of calling his grandfather ‘Woger’ and making a beeline for the café whenever they go out – boy after my own heart! Alfie is the catalyst for much of Roger’s transformation and growth.

This heart-warming tale covers a lot of issues such as loneliness, parental angst, grief, and betrayal, but does so wrapped up in humour and a narrative that’s as comforting as a hot chocolate on a winter’s day.

For me, the test of a good novel is whether I care enough about the characters to want to know what happens to them after the story is over. ‘ Jane’s Away’ passed this test with aplomb and I am delighted there will be more to come from the Kurmudge family.

Highly recommend!

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