enjoy a Great Read from Anstey Harris and fabulous fiction for the holiday season
There’s something universal about Grace Atherton, the heroine of this soulful romance. Even if you don’t identify with Grace’s circumstances, it’s impossible not to sympathise with her. Grace quickly becomes the reader’s friend. We don’t judge her and we desperately want her to work it all out. The novel opens with an extraordinary scene. Grace is with her boyfriend, David, at a concert in Paris. The tickets were a surprise gift from him, to hear Corelli’s La Folia, her favourite piece of music, at La Conservatoire. Grace is a one-time cellist who now makes violins and music is her passion. Her other love is David. The couple has been together eight years but still the romance is all-consuming. “David can bring things to my life that I don’t even @ know are missing,” she says.
Then, on their way home on the Metro, David miraculously saves a pregnant woman who has fallen on the tracks and just manages to pull her to safety with heart-stopping seconds to spare. He is declared a mystery hero by the media with a video posted showing both David and Grace. “Anyone could tell we are a couple. Even his wife. Even his children.”
Ah … so Grace is David’s mistress we learn, and then the story really starts. Grace lives in England, he in Strasbourg, Anstey Harris, 53, was born in an “Unmarried Mothers’ Home” and, after being adopted, was raised in south-east England. Her childhood “was one long search for dogs: it is fair to say I was obsessed ... I currently live in the town I grew up in – with my husband and two dogs (dreams can come true).” Anstey is a university lecturer in creative writing and says “great novels talk without reservation about emotion but – at the same time – do not revolve around the writer’s ego. Anything I’ve ever tried to write to settle a personal score, or represent some side of me I feel is undervalued, has been a disaster.” and their gentle affair is carried out in his apartment in Paris. Naturally, Grace believes they will be together. “Eventually when we have a family of our own, this trickle of time will become a torrent. David will move in here, we will have spare bedrooms for his older children,” she muses.
Slowly and with incredible finesse, author Anstey Harris peels back the layers and we see this adulterer in a new light. The twists are surprising, the writing exquisite, set against a backdrop of Grace’s world of music.
“The idea of writing about a mistress came to me some years ago,” Anstey tells The Weekly. “I wanted to explore the reasons that some people settle for that – very second best – role. I wanted to write a character that, without condoning her behaviour, we can sympathise with even though we feel we shouldn’t.”
David’s character is based on a “charming but unfaithful boyfriend ...
I’d met him when he was in the last throes of a dying relationship and forgot to pay heed to the adage ‘be careful how you get them because that’s how you’ll lose them,’” she adds.