Charlotte is falling apart after her divorce - will she ever be happy again?
You feel ever so slightly voyeuristic reading Life Begins - as though you are intruding upon the sacred sanctum of innermost thoughts and feelings of its inhabitants. If you can get over the sense of discomfort, you will find yourself unwillingly caught up in the everyday dramas that sometimes occupy our normal, everyday lives.
Charlotte is nearing her fortieth birthday, with a failed marriage behind her and trouble brewing with her teenage son, Sam; she is feeling the pressure of single parenthood as well as just being plain single. Vulnerable, emotional and full of self-pity, she is fighting to regain some sense of normality as well as navigate the cut and thrust of the housing market. When her estate agent takes an unprecedented interest in her new found singledom, she is understandably wary - her husband, Martin, having treated her so despicably with his suspected numerous affairs, but her friends are all for her having a life - especially Theresa who secretly harbours feelings of misgivings about her own husband's sudden interest in Charlotte.
Emotions are a complex subject matter, subject to change apparently whimsically or with the changing of the tide. Love is an abstract that the author probes and pokes at with a pensiveness and introspection that draws the reader into questioning and forming their own opinions about what love is. Relationships are also explored as fickle, unknowing, intangible and yet real and comforting and an anchor in the storm of life. Brookfield tackles these ludicrously difficult and immeasurably important aspects of the human story with great finesse, delicately extracting the extremes of harshness and tenderness that we are capable of feeling. There is warmth, humour and devastating perceptiveness into the various characters that parade across our lives and how our interactions with them affect ourselves in the most profound way.
Life Begins is not a belabouring of the difficulties of divorce, but a reckoning of how human frailties mean we all make mistakes, the consequences of which we have to endure in the best manner we know how. But mostly, it is a heartfelt tale of the enormous capacity we all have to love.
We interview C J Daugherty about Night School
- 10 January 2012