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Jess goes into her marriage with Simon with enthusiasm although I felt this was on a purely superficial level. I think that Jess knew deep in her heart that everything that Simon wanted for them was a polar opposite to what she wanted. In the first book in the trilogy we see Jess as an adventurer, as someone who is taking charge more and more and this was perhaps possible for her because she was away from her domineering family's influence. However, now she has returned to England, Jess soon learns to put her own needs last and desperately tries to make sure Simon is happy. She becomes a product of all that is expected of women in the 1960's.
Throughout the book, Jess remembers her times in Ghana with a yearning for what once was. Simon is blind to her needs and ambitions and Jess finds herself putting her own dreams to one side as Simon has more difficulties that she could ever imagine and it soon becomes apparent that he is almost a full time job himself, needing constant reassurance and to be cared for. He is extremely needy and so selfish. Jess herself has her own problems to contend with but will she get what she needs from Simon? Julia Ibbotson has written his character so well and he made me want to scream throughout the entire book. I tried to have some sympathy for him at times but simply couldn't. He was infuriating and sometimes I got a little mad at Jess for not standing up to him more. However, I could also see why she didn't. She was in an impossible position.
I really enjoyed this book. I felt for Jess as she is so torn in doing what is expected of her and following her own dreams. It is a book about the loss of one's self and searching for a way to your own dreams. So many different issues are explored in this book - love, trust, abuse, mental illness, betrayal and feeling lost and alone and of course hope. A really great read and I look forward to the next installment in the story.
The story was sad as the entire marriage was one sided with Jess bearing the emotional and to a great extent the working of the marriage and ultimately there never seemed to be a moment of appreciation from her husband who took everything for granted. Despite being Quakers with strong moral and ethical guidelines on how they lived, Simon and his parents were anything but and Jess ultimately faced betrayal by all of them. The worst betrayal came from her best friend Polly and this was the ultimate betrayal, slightly unbelievable for me as the reader as well.
Human nature at its best and worst in the story. The settings were the 1960s and I could not imagine why Jess took everything that was thrown at her without rebellion or question. Laws were still archaic according to this book and domestic violence and abuse was considered a matter for private settlement between 'husband and wife'. I couldn't believe this and am actually going to check this out.
The book was unsettling but well written.