My enormous thanks to Jess Duffy at Pan Macmillan for a copy of The Faithful by Juliet West in return for an honest review and my apologies that it has taken so long to read it!
The Faithful was published by Mantle, an imprint of Pan Macmillan on 15th June 2017 and is available for purchase through these links.
July 1935. In the village of Aldwick on the Sussex coast, sixteen-year-old Hazel faces a long, dull summer with just her self-centred mother Francine for company. But then Francine decamps to London with her lover Charles, Oswald Mosley’s blackshirts arrive in Aldwick, and Hazel’s summer suddenly becomes more interesting. She finds herself befriended by two very different people: Lucia, an upper-class blackshirt, passionate about the cause; and Tom, a young working-class boy, increasingly scornful of Mosley’s rhetoric. In the end, though, it is Tom who wins Hazel’s heart – and Hazel who breaks his.
Autumn 1936. Now living in London, Hazel has grown up fast over the past year. But an encounter with Tom sends her into freefall. He must never know why she cut off all contact last summer, betraying the promises they’d made. Yet Hazel isn’t the only one with secrets. Nor is she the only one with a reason to keep the two of them apart . . .
From the beaches of Sussex to the battlefields of civil war Spain, The Faithful is a rich and gripping tale of love, deception and desire.
My Review of The Faithful
It’s the mid 1930s and the fascists and communists are on the rise so when Hazel and Tom’s lives collide there will be reverberations.
Oh my goodness. The Faithful is exactly my kind of read. Firstly, there’s an era I didn’t know too much about so that reading The Faithful enriched my understanding of British history just prior to the Second World War. The balance of brilliantly researched authentic detail and wonderful fiction is spot on. Every syllable adds depth and nuance to the narrative so that I felt the tensions and the passions just as much as the characters did.
I thought Juliet West’s writing was so skilful. I loved the prophetic imagery so that, at times, The Faithful feels almost Shakespearean in its quality and I kept thinking of Macbeth with the portents woven throughout. It’s difficult to say too much without spoiling the superb plot.
The narrative is taut and affecting. I slowed down my reading towards the end as I knew how I wanted the story to end but until the last few pages I didn’t know if Juliet West had the same ideas for Hazel as I did and you’ll have to read The Faithful for yourself to see what I mean! Revelations reverberate and shock throughout and the layers of deceit pervading everything from the most mundane through the political to characters’ self-deceptions are realistic and disturbing. I hated Bea’s actions, for example, but her desperate need to belong and to maintain her family makes them completely understandable.
Indeed, I am slightly in awe of the way in which Juliet West manipulated me as a reader when it came to character. Francine is quite vile, but she’s equally vulnerable and pitiful so that although I wanted to loathe her, she had my sympathy instead. Even the louche Charles had my grudging understanding. This is characterisation at its most sophisticated.
The Faithful is a book about love and deceit, about the personal and the political and about how we convince ourselves of truths that have no basis in reality. This makes The Faithful a book about humanity and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
About Juliet West
Juliet West worked as a journalist before taking an MA in Creative Writing at Chichester University, where she won the Kate Betts’ Memorial Prize. Before The Fall, her debut novel, was shortlisted for the Myriad Editions novel writing competition in 2012. Juliet also writes short stories and poetry, and won the H E Bates short story prize in 2009. She lives in West Sussex with her husband and three children.