All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Five Days – Douglas Kennedy

on April 16, 2013

Five DaysFive Days
Douglas Kennedy
Random House AU
2013, 336p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

How long does it take to fall in love?

Laura is 42 and a works in radiology at a local hospital in a small town in Maine. She’s been married to Dan for over 20 years and the two of them had had a relatively good life, if not one filled with passion. But 21 months ago, Dan lost his job and Laura was watched depression and contempt sneak into her husband. Unable to find work, his barbs always find a home in Laura. It seems that she can do no right.

A weekend away for a medical conference gives Laura some time to breathe. Whilst checking in to her hotel she meets Richard, a grey-looking, grey-dressing man who sells insurance. They have a brief conversation that leaves Laura feeling unsettled but when they see each other at a cinema that night, something changes. Their exchanges become deep, meaningful. They share things with each other that neither of them have ever dared to share before. Both are unhappy in their marriages, both of them have watched their children experience something difficult. Both of them love literature and words and their conversations spark a contest of vocabulary that stimulates them both.

It’s a heady fall into love, although it’s fraught with fear and second-guessing. After all they’ve known each other such a short while but they cannot deny the connection they’ve uncovered, nor fail to see the desperate desire in each other to change. To be different. To step out of the skin they’ve assumed, the one that isn’t them and assume their real identities. Is it possible for them both to walk away from the lives that make them so happy, to reach out and grasp a future that is possible, right in front of them? One that could change everything for them and awake them both after years of going through the motions.

This is a beautiful book. I’ve never read Douglas Kennedy before but when I read the blurb for this one, I immediately said yes to reviewing it. Although I have little in common with Laura, I could not fail to see and understand the restlessness in her. Her husband Dan, someone she had married because he wasn’t the love of her life (and therefore could perhaps not destroy her the way losing the love of her life did) had become someone who no longer held back when it came to criticism. Depressed and lacking in self-worth after losing his job, Dan took all of his inherent frustrations out on Laura, who was manufactured to take them, to be the peacemaker.

When she meets Richard, she describes him as bland, “grey”, not particularly interesting. He’s poorly dressed, unflatteringly so. As Laura and Richard wander Boston during their descent into deep love, she begins to peel away the grey layers and reveal the real Richard – the one who wants to write, who dreams of a leather jacket, who wants to wear black like Lou Reed. Likewise Laura is dressed in Boston in a way that she would never dare to dress in her hometown – it would incite talk. There would be whispers. Both Laura and Richard have buttoned themselves into a life that they didn’t want with partners that don’t seem to know them at all. Dan has no interest in Laura’s love of words, something he sneers at and Richard’s wife seems unimpressed with his efforts in writing.

I don’t usually enjoy books about infidelity but it was just impossible not to get swept up into the connection that Laura and Richard discovered and created between them that weekend in Boston. Their conversations were witty but also deep and they shared the most intimate details and experiences of their lives. They trusted each other with their inner selves, anything physical (and that part of the book is very low key) was just window dressing. I read eagerly as they made plans to escape the lives that had trodden them down so much, half fearful that Laura would find a moment in history repeating itself. What happened was far different and it shocked me although I could very much see the reasoning behind it. It felt like a very normal reaction to what was a very abnormal experience.

Kennedy captures the female narrative so well in this book. All of her buried pain, her frustrations, her wishes and her love for her children are so wonderfully expressed. Even her complicated feelings for her husband are done without malice. Their marriage was so interesting to me, especially once I learned more about why Laura and he ended up together. It made me wonder just how much of Dan’s resentment and passive-aggressiveness was bundled up in perhaps knowing that he’d never really had all of Laura – but then again this was no secret even before they started dating. It was something he knew he was getting right from the very beginning. Theirs was more a marriage of inevitability rather than love and that seemed to wear away any bond that they might’ve had.

I became so invested in all of the characters in this novel when I was reading it. I felt like I knew them, like I had been there throughout the whole journey, even what came before the opening of the book. It’s a testament to the creation of the characters and the way in which Kennedy tells a story I think, that I could feel so invested and that my knowledge felt so complete. This book also held many surprises for me, as things took paths that I did not expect. It’s a beautifully written book, a stellar read that definitely makes me wonder how I haven’t read any Kennedy before. Something I’m definitely going to have to change!


Book #91 of 2013


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