This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Reviewed by Jenny Banks
When two year old Mikey falls from a boat into the River Seine while on a trip to Paris, those closest to the accident have little idea as to how much it will come to affect them in Louise Candlish’s latest novel, The Day You Saved My Life.
Mikey’s mother, Holly, is inches away from her son as he falls. She is a shadow of her former self, unable to break free from the postnatal depression that has taken control of her life. Mikey’s grandmother, Joanna, hopes that the trip to Paris will help Holly, and bring back her happy daughter. Alexa, in Paris for her fifth wedding anniversary with husband James, watches as he dives from the boat into the Seine to rescue the toddler.
From this point onwards, the lives of each involved are changed unalterably, entwining in a way that couldn’t have been imagined before the boat trip. James’ heroic act of rescuing Mikey is the catalyst for the novel. They are unwitting instigators, putting into motion events that the three women in their lives will have to face.
Candlish balances the narratives well between Holly, Joanna and Alexa, transferring the control of proceedings from the initial facilitators, James and Mikey. They are the ones who pick up the pieces and put them back together in an order that tests each other the most, perhaps more so than the accident.
The consequences of the accident seem to be felt most strongly by Holly and Alexa. They become unrecognisable from the people the reader is introduced to early in the novel. Both undergo a huge change in their personalities, creating much of the novel’s energy. Alexa in particular, unpredictable and self-destructive, seems to be bubbling under the surface, waiting to explode while a thousand eruptions occur around her.
Joanna acts as a source of support for everyone, including the reader, when the novel reaches a turbulent junction. She is a true mother figure: caring, constant and loving. Joanna is the heart of The Day You Saved My Life. It is difficult to imagine the novel without her.
The characters Candlish has created give the novel its strength. Candlish constantly delves into the minds of Holly, Joanna and Alexa and their interactions and actions. No one character is black and white and able to be summed up in a few words. Each is flawed and imperfect, serving to make them relatable, genuine women.
When I put this novel down, I had a feeling that when I started to read it again, something life changing would once more have occurred. There was an undercurrent of tension running throughout The Day You Saved My Life. Would that day turn out to be the same one where a life was ruined? The more I progressed towards the end, the more I wanted an outcome that was universal for all involved, one that wouldn’t fuel regret for James saving Mikey.
The Day You Saved My Life is the first of Louise Candlish’s novels I have read, and now I eagerly look forward to reading her previous books. It is a fantastic read; an engaging emotional drama, carried by the cast of characters, each of which the reader will become deeply invested in. It is a novel about the actions and decisions we make in life, destiny and the bind of love and family. It is intelligent, thought provoking and utterly absorbing.