Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Swear on this life by Renee Carlino

 When a bestselling debut novel from mysterious author J.Colby becomes the literary event of the year, Emiline reads it reluctantly. As an adjunct writing instructor at UC San Diego with her own stalled literary career and a bumpy long-term relationship, Emiline isn’t thrilled to celebrate the accomplishments of a young and gifted writer.

Yet from the very first page, Emiline is entranced by the story of Emerson and Jackson, two childhood best friends who fall in love and dream of a better life beyond the long dirt road that winds through their impoverished town in rural Ohio.

That’s because the novel is patterned on Emiline’s own dark and desperate childhood, which means that “J. Colby” must be Jase: the best friend and first love she hasn’t seen in over a decade. Far from being flattered that he wrote the novel from her perspective, Emiline is furious that he co-opted her painful past and took some dramatic creative liberties with the ending.

The only way she can put her mind at ease is to find and confront “J. Colby,” but is she prepared to learn the truth behind the fiction?

(From Goodreads)

So I mentioned that a friend had lent me this book last week. I thought it would have taken me much longer to read but I started it yesterday morning before my long shift at work. Just over twelve hours later I had finished it. I was an emotional wreck by the end of it. It had the tone of a Colleen Hoover novel and I fell in love with her last year. It Ends With Us was very similar to Swear On This Life. It was a brilliant book that was written by a woman, about a book written by a guy about a woman. Work that one out! I don't know how Carlino managed it but Jase seemed to have his own style of writing. The different voices were clear and easy to distinguish.

The balance between the present day, and the past was perfect. The presentation of the fact was particularly interesting; it was written into the book rather than through flashbacks. Reading the past in the form of a novel was so much more entertaining and original. I know that I am an emotional sap  but I felt as though I grew up with Emerson/Emiline. Carlino included all aspects of childhood development, especially from a female point of view. It was even more heartbreaking with the realization that Emiline had no mother to guide her through puberty, and through her experiencing with her first love. Instead, Emiline suffers from issues of abandonment. Her mother has deserted her, and her father appears to have given up on life and on taking care of his daughter and even Jase eventually gives up and vanishes from her story.

Trevor was a character I disliked and didn't get on with, and I found myself more uncomfortable with him than with Emi's father. His development seemed a little half- assed? It was obvious that he was just a filler. Trevor stuck by Emiline, and was there for her even though she hid her past from him. He didn't abandon her. However, I felt that he didn't seek to understand her. He seemed to take her at face value, rather than seeking an emotional connection with her. He definitely wasn't bothered about her writing. It felt like a relationship of convenience and made me uncomfortable. It began to appear as though Emi intended to stay by his side due to a sense of duty. I wanted her relationship with Jase to continue. But why? I should have been angry with his character for having abandoned her.

The past, and Jase's writing, definitely had more depth for me. The present seemed less emotional and I struggled to connect with Jase as a character. He seemed much more superficial outside the realms of his novel, and of their shared past. He seemed cocky and arrogant; irritating. Perhaps Emiline hadn't changed as much as Jase had and that's why I preferred her character in comparison.

However, I didn't enjoy the ending to Jase's novel. I did understand that it does have purpose to it though. It was written for the purpose of making Emiline see what she was missing, to warn her that she faced the possibility of a life full of regret. The ending of Carlino's novel wasn't particularly sharp or exciting, and it did feel a little bit rushed and predictable. But it was a happy ending, and it was nice and I wasn't unsatisfied. Emiline deserved a happy ending.

The element I appreciated the most in this novel was the character development. Not all of the characters were capable of change and of redemption. That her dad had changed, and reformed his character was more than enough for me. I didn't need her mother to have done the same, and neither did Emiline. It was very realistic of Carlino.

Overall, I gave the book four out of five stars. The sentiment that life is too short was really well presented by Carlino. Swear on This Life is easily the best book I've read this year, so far. This will be hard to beat.

My favorite piece of dialogue was:
'Jase: I hope it's everything you want it to be.
Emiline: What? [...]
Jase: The rest of your life.
Emiline: [...] Well, we won't really know until the very end, will we?'

Have a lovely day folks.

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