Last night I was lucky enough to go along to the first Mantle Book Club, a new event arranged by the lovelies at Pan Macmillan for book folk of all ilks (from book bloggers to editors, journos to publicists) to come together and talk about books. The book for the first club was Miss You*, by Kate Eberlen. As someone who spends a significant portion of her time with her head stuck in a book, a la Belle from Beauty and the Beast*, I really enjoyed the opportunity to go along and discuss the book, the characters, how we'd cast a movie of the book and many other points with a group of interested and intelligent readers.
As I was going to book club, I read this book very quickly after receiving it at the weekend, and thought I'd review today, after the discussion, debate, and alcohol-infused-slushies (seriously, so good) of last night.
Miss You is the story of two characters, Tess and Gus. For me it's very much the story before the love story, as our star-crossed lovers keep missing each other as their lives move along. I loved this premise and the ways that they almost meet are inventive and charming. Their not-quite-intertwining stories both have highs, lows and moments to cherish and for a book with two such different paths I loved that the changes in perspective and person never jarred - whether it was a Tess or a Gus chapter, I was always pleased to see them again!
This is a book about love, but it's also a book about so much more. Friendship, loss, fate, duty, family, what it is that makes us feel happy and whole....it's all here. Tess, Gus and the other characters within the book are all real, human, believable, and I love that Eberlen was willing to allow her lead characters to be flawed, to struggle, and at times to be downright wrong.
Another thing I liked about the book was how it conveyed what it is to be lonely. At points various in the book both Tess and Gus were at points where they felt really, truly alone, and Eberlen didn't shirk from showing this. This gave a real note of pathos to proceedings, as well as making it seem all the more real - being lonely and feeling alone is one of the few human universals, whether it's for a moment or a season. I also liked how Eberlen wrote about London - when she spoke about the areas the book covers I could almost picture them, hear the sounds, and smell the smells. Evocative, vivid, scene-setting.
I loved the 'supporting' cast of characters and would read the heck out of a book starring quite a few of them (apart from the one character I want to smack, hard). I loved the fact that as well as our two protagonists wending their way towards each other, you saw other characters missing and making connections. As humans I think we all have a what if, an 'if-it-had-been-a-little-different', or a one that got away - and this book plots not just the 'what ifs' of the two main characters, but the many characters around them. In life sometimes we are the star, sometimes the support, and sometimes an extra in the background - while we followed Tess and Gus's story I liked the moments where you realised the central duo, as well as being destined for each other, were someone else's mistake, what if, or not-meant-to-be.
The books and films this most called to mind were One Day*, The Versions of Us*, and Sliding Doors* - this book is quite like all of these, but completely different as well. For vast swathes of the book Tess and Gus are miles apart, so it's not exactly like any of the trio, but the 'what if' scenarios and the near misses of the book, where their lives almost intersect, means that some of the themes are naturally the same.
I really enjoyed Miss You and tore through it at a rate of knots. I loved accompanying Tess and Gus on their journey and would heartily recommend the book to anyone looking for a good, well-plotted, moving bit of fiction. I'm looking forward to Eberlen's next book already - whatever she writes I'm sure will be another great story.
Disclaimer: I was gifted a copy of Miss You to read and review. All opinions, for good or for ill, are my own.