So here they are from The Very Thought of You by Rosie Alison:
Of all the many people we meet in a lifetime, it is strange that so many of us find ourselves in thrall to one particular person.
From Baxter's Guide to the Historic Houses of England (2007)
Any visitor travelling north from York will pass through a flat vale of farmland before rising steeply onto the wide upland plateau of the North Yorkshire Moors.
London, 31 August 1939
There was a hint of afternoon sunshine as Anna Sands and her mother, Roberta, stepped off their bus into Kensington High Street.
The first opens a letter from one of our four main characters, Thomas Ashton, to the love of his life.
The second begins the entry describing Ashton Park, the aging mansion that becomes a home for children evacuated from London during WWII, our main setting.
The third opens the narrative by introducing us to our protagonist, Anna, as they take one last shopping trip in preparation for Anna's departure to Ashton Park.
And then from page 56 (see below for a link to that blog hop and one for the book beginnings as well), it's exposition from Thomas's perspective about his family and his childhood growing up at Ashton Park:
At the center of any room stood his parents. He would never forget his mother in blue-shadowed silk, sweeping into the dining room on his father's arm, truly beautiful.To sum up: This impressive first novel - shortlisted for the Orange Prize even - traces the lives of Anna and Roberta, as well as Thomas and his wife, Elizabeth Ashton, primarily during the war years. Moodily atmospheric and increasingly melancholy, we're privy to their inner lives (multiple third person perspective) as those lives intersect and diverge, playing again and again on novelist Alison's title theme. Inner desires, memories, dreams, and resentments shift and collide with outward actions and appearances, maintaining a tension born partly of the extremities of war and partly of the particular natures of our characters.
My opinion: If you favor books with this setting, you'll find Alison's descriptions of York and the Ashton mansion evocative, often even magical, in a darkly The Secret Garden sort of way. As a coming of age tale for Anna, the plot kept my interest and her perspective - all the confusion, delight, and drama of a child's interior life - offered a lovely counterpoint to Thomas's careful reflections and both Elizabeth's and Roberta's yearnings. As the story of adult relationships slipping into crisis, it also rang true - at least for these particular characters. Add to their voices and passions Alison's regular excerpts of popular songs of the period and marvelous poems that provide both thematic resonance and plot movement, and you've got yourself a novel.
Now that I describe it, I'm feeling that one could liken the whole book to a sonata of sorts, with multiple voicings in various tones shifting and eliding into one multi-part stream of sound and sense. If that sounds like an experience you'd favor, then by all means pick up a copy of The Very Thought of You. (****/5)
Or, if you're ready to enjoy a few more 'Book Beginnings' and 'Friday 56' peeks at at other readers' current books, go ahead and hop to A Few More Pages and Freda's Voice.