I was delighted when a copy of A Life Without You by Katie Marsh arrived from Emma Knight at Hodder in return for an honest review, but it wasn’t until I’d finished reading in floods of tears that I read the acknowledgements and found myself mentioned – and promptly burst into tears again!
A Life Without You
Can you ever outrun the past?
It’s Zoe’s wedding day. She’s about to marry Jamie, the love of her life. Then a phone call comes out of the blue, with the news that her mum Gina has been arrested. Zoe must make an impossible decision: should she leave her own wedding to help?
Zoe hasn’t seen Gina for years, blaming her for the secret that she’s been running from ever since she was sixteen. Now, Gina is back in her life, but she’s very different to the mum Zoe remembers. Slowly but surely, Gina is losing her memory.
As she struggles to cope with Gina’s illness, can Zoe face up to the terrible events of years ago and find her way back to the people she loves?
A Life Without You is a stirring and poignant novel about the power of the past – and the possibilities of the future.
My Review of A Life Without You
When Zoe’s wedding day preparations are disrupted by the mother from whom she’s been estranged for years, she doesn’t fully realise the pull of family and how her life will be affected.
When you have so loved an author’s first novel (My Everything, my review of which is here) it is with trepidation that you read and review the second. My goodness I needn’t have worried. A Life Without You is just as emotional, just as stunning and just as beautifully written.
If I’m honest, I’m struggling a bit with this review. I don’t seem able to construct a sentence that conveys how affected I felt by reading Katie Marsh’s A Life Without You. It might be because my own father is no longer the man I have always known, following his terrible stroke a month ago that, although he and I have never been estranged like Zoe and Gina, I can relate to every difficulty Zoe and Lily face in the latter part of the book. I didn’t just read about their emotions. I felt them as if they were my own. But even readers with no experience of parental illness cannot fail to be engrossed in what happens to Gina.
There is a really well constructed plot in A Life Without You, with secrets emerging slowly that give insight into the characters and the real reason Zoe has shut Gina out of her life, but that is not the main feature of the story. It is the themes of love, the past, family and relationships that make this such a stunning read. I don’t know how she does it, but Katie Marsh seems to put on paper what the rest of us feel inside. There is also a lightness at times that balances the more emotional aspect so effectively. I think it is the realism of situations in A Life Without You that makes this such a powerful read.
I really enjoyed the structure of the writing. The more Gina slips into memory loss, the more of her letters to Zoe we read so that we gain a full understanding of who she is as a person. Gina’s relationship with Alistair must be so familiar to so many readers.
Indeed, even though Zoe is at the heart of the novel, her non-wedding being the catalyst for events, it is Gina who steals the show, perhaps giving us all an important message. When those we love are slipping into dementia or some other illness, they are still those we love, albeit changed.
I was incredibly moved by A Life Without You and the experience of reading it will stay with me for a very long time.
About Katie Marsh
Katie lives in south-west London with her family. Before being published she worked in healthcare, and her novels are inspired by the bravery of the people she met in hospitals and clinics across the country. Her first novel My Everything (available here) was picked by the Evening Standard as one of the hottest summer debuts of 2015.
She loves strong coffee, the feel of a blank page and stealing her husband’s toast. When not writing, she spends her time in local parks trying and failing to keep up with her daughter’s scooter.