The past has a habit of tracking us down. And tripping us up.
When Kate was twenty-two, she had an intense and passionate affair with a married man, Callum, which ended in heartbreak. Kate thought she’d never get over it. Seventeen years later, life has moved on – Kate, now a successful actress, is living in London, married to Matt and mother to little Tallulah. Meanwhile Callum and his wife Belinda are happy together, living in Edinburgh and watching their kids grow up. The past, it would seem, is well and truly behind them all.
But then Kate meets Callum again.
Never Greener marks a new chapter for Ruth Jones (excuse the pun); it’s her debut novel and what a treat it is. I have to admit that I am incredibly jealous of Jones’ ability to be so talented, she’s one of those people that appear to have the Midas touch, creating stand out performances or writing television shows with ease. Not only is she a fabulous comedian, actor and script writer, with Never Greener she takes her mastery to a whole new level and has created a story that is both engaging and thrilling, but she also keeps it very funny and heart wrenching all at the same time.
The story follows the lives of Kate and Callum who met when Kate was in her early 20’s and Callum considerably older, some may say mid-life crisis age. Searching for something in all the wrong places, a passionate affair ensues and ends in a rather messy way. Nearly 20 years on, Callum has been forgiven by his wife and is still living in Scotland with his family; whereas Kate is now a successful actress, married and living in London with her partner and young daughter. But when she is called to revisit her old school in Scotland, a chance encounter ensues and the fates of Kate and Callum are entwined again as old feelings come rushing back; the passionate affair is back on, but both have a lot more to lose this time around. Stand back and watch the brown stuff hit the fan.
Jones has a wonderful gift of creating characters that resonate so well with her target audiences, providing us characters that we can come along side with, laugh with and most importantly feel that they are real people. It’s a skill that is quite often hard to come by, but showcases Jones’ ability to know people and write characters that are both real, flawed but connect with us all at the same time.
That is what I love about this book; the characters are fallible, excluding Callum and Kate; the other cast of characters within the novel all have their own issues and Jones reveals these to us slowly, having us glimpse into the past as well as journey with them in the present as these discoveries are made; each time adding layers to the story and characters that you grow to love like your own friends.
It’s also very difficult, I would assume to write characters that are so morally wrong; without alienating them to the story or the reader; because let’s face it, affairs are messy things, they destroy families, friendships and leave a trail of chaos behind. But Jones deftly creates her characters in that, all are made human without demonising any (highlighting that we all are capable of making mistakes); which ensures that the reader is both invested in the book and devoted to the outcome.
It is a very Ruth Jones product. Her personality and humour pour from the pages as you read. There were moments in this book that I laughed out loud, there were moments that the tension was so intense that I were shouting at the characters, it’s raunchy and emotional; whilst Jones also splices in key moments of reflection and disbelief.
A very character driven tale (unsurprisingly) of redemption, sacrifice and loss which showcases Jones’ abilities as a raconteur. It’s an intelligent debut from a fabulous new talent in fiction writing and I personally can’t wait to see what she does next.
Never Greener is published by Bantam Press and is available here.
Ruth Jones is best known for her outstanding and award-winning television writing – BBC 1’s Gavin and Stacey, in which she played the incorrigible Nessa, and Sky 1’s Stella, in which she played the titular role. She has won acclaim for her performances in BBC dramas Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Little Dorritand Hattie, as well as comedies Little Britain, Saxondale and Nighty Night.
Reviewed by Ross Jeffery
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