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The Years That Followed by Catherine Dunne - Review

Saturday, January 25, 2020

This was the first of my Christmas books that I read. My friend bought me it and like I said, I didn't know the author but I was really intrigued by the blurb and started reading this really soon into the new year. It's a dual narrative told from the points of view of two women, Calista and Pilar, and the novel spans over thirty years in time from the 50s to the late 1980s.

At the beginning of the book, Calista is in her late thirties and is living in a secluded house in the Spanish countryside. It is 1989 and she's alone, having clearly survived some tragedies. She gets a phone call telling her that her ex husband, Alexandros, and his new wife, Sandra, are dead. She is the reason why - she hired a hitman to kill them. The novel takes us through the past thirty years of Calista's life, since she was a teenager in Dublin, growing up with a Spanish mother and Irish father. Her father is doing business with Alexandros' family, and he comes to visit.

He is around thirty at this point, and seduces Calista. She ends up pregnant and the two get married and head to Alexandros' native Cyprus, where they live with his parents Petros and Maroulla. Calista struggles to fit in with them and their rules and their culture, and she longs to be back in Dublin with her parents and brother. Their daughter Imogen is born and Alexandros starts being violent towards Calista. She lives on eggshells around him and makes plans to leave.

Meanwhile, Pilar is the youngest daughter of a poor family in the same Spanish countryside where Calista ends up decades later. It is the 1950s and Pilar wants more than staying on the family farm. With the help of her dying mother she escapes to Madrid, where she works hard and is helped by an old family friend, Senor Gomez. She meets Petros, Alexandros' father, and begins an affair with him.

In the 1980s she is the porteria of an apartment building that she also happens to own. She is the person who discovers the bodies of Alexandros and Sandra.

Calista and Pilar are linked almost from the beginning of the narrative, but they do not know that until the mid 1980s, and they don't understand the full links between them even then. I thought that was really brilliant, and I really enjoyed reading about both women and understanding how they came to be where they are by 1989. There are so many strands to this book and they're all woven together amazingly. I liked both women and loved seeing so much of their entire lives. The book is really compelling and I now want to press it into the hands of everyone I know! I may start with my mum.

I'm giving this a well deserved five out of five.

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