Love At First Flight
Harper Collins AU
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Mel is a GP, living in a beautiful new house in Perth, Australia. For fifteen years she’s been married Adam, an anesthetist and they have two children. Each year Mel heads to Melbourne to meet her friend Sarah for a girl’s weekend. This year, getting on that plane changes her life.
Mel meets Matt, a younger physiotherapist who had been in Perth interviewing for a job and is now returning home to Melbourne. Matt had spotted Mel in the airport and experienced an instant attraction to her. Sitting next to her on the plane, he can’t believe his luck.
They get chatting and Mel finds that Matt is everything she finds attractive – he’s passionate and holds strong opinions, opinions that she shares. With Matt Mel is able to get the deep and satisfying conversation that she craves, something that her husband has never been able to give her. What begins as a flirty conversation, a way to pass the hours in the air quickly develops into something more and neither of them can get the other out of their head.
Weeks later and Matt tracks Mel down in Perth and the two tumble quickly into an intense affair that borders on an obsession. Mel is torn – she can’t see herself giving up this passion and intensity with Matt but neither can she see herself leaving Adam and tearing their two children’s lives apart. For a while, Mel thinks she can have it all but Matt makes it clear that he has all of her or it’s nothing.
Tackling infidelity in such a manner is always I think, a brave move. Quite often in books, infidelity is used as a way to announce a character who has usually wronged a protagonist. This book alternates between Mel and Matt as they both narrate their interactions and the spiraling into their heady and damaging affair. To be honest, I find infidelity selfish and inexcusable at the best of times. But I’m interested in the motivations and circumstances behind it – I like to explore human nature and let’s face it, it’s a very prevalent part of that.
However I’m not really sure this story gave me any real deep insights into it. It’s portrayed for Matt as an instant sexual attraction from the moment he spots Mel in the airport and he makes a bit of a fool of himself fumbling through their first conversation in several ways, making her uncomfortable but also a bit intrigued. Even though she finds Matt attractive, I’m not sure that was the basis for Mel as it was for Matt originally. It was Matt’s passion for politics and humanitarian issues that really seemed to be the thing that drew her in. Mel doesn’t really seem to embrace the life of money and privilege that Adam seems so set on – she doesn’t love their big fancy new house or care about the status symbols like Adam does. Although they’ve been happy, it seems there are things that Mel is missing – and Matt can provide those for her.
Ultimately though, I found myself really actively disliking Mel. She attempts to justify her behaviour to herself with increasing ridiculousness and she becomes just…really hard to read. Her voice is shrill and self-entitled as she tries to figure out how she can deceive her family and continue to keep Matt in her life and at the same time it’s full of self-pity that she’s being made to feel this guilt. However she doesn’t attempt to turn her back on the temptation and once Matt shows up in Perth she really just goes for it. She lies to her husband in order to spend full nights with Matt and I think the moment that showcased Mel in the worst light was when she assumed Matt wouldn’t mind just being her lover when she could manage it and he’d be cool with understanding that she had to stay married to Adam. That was at best, naive and at worst, utterly delusional.
I felt sorry for both Adam, Mel’s suffering husband and also Lydia, Matt’s fiancee even though I think it was attempted to paint Lydia as someone not to feel all that sorry for. She was obsessed with the wedding, shallow and silly but Matt knew all of those things long before he asked her to marry him. I feel as though Matt was in utterly the wrong frame of mind to commit to making life changing decisions after he returned from Perth the second time and the fact that he made these decisions only served to prolong the misery.
I know a lot of people say you don’t have to love the characters to love a book and I think in some cases that’s very true. But if I’m not invested in characters, if I can’t bring myself to care about them and what happens to them then I find it very hard to connect with a story. I really, really disliked Mel the more the book went on. I think I found Matt a little more likable and I’m not sure why that is. Maybe it was the fact that he didn’t have kids, so he didn’t have the endless cycle of guilt and attempting to justify his behaviour. He had less baggage, less people that stood to get really hurt and have their lives impacted by his decisions.
This one really didn’t change my mind how I feel about cheating and those that do it. I’m skeptical at the best of times about the ‘grand love you can’t deny’ and I think that when you’re married, you’ve made a choice and if you want to step away from that, there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about it. If you don’t want to step away from it, then don’t do things that jeopardise it. Everyone has a choice and the ones you make affect not just you, but others too. So I can’t really say that I enjoyed this as such – but I found it incredibly interesting in a portrayal of human nature and an exploration of marriage and relationships.
Book #71 of 2015
Love At First Flight is book #25 of AWW2015