From the acclaimed author of Pearl and Final Payments comes a beautifully choreographed novel about first lovers meeting again after more than 30 years and reimmersing themselves in their shared past.
Miranda and Adam, high-school sweethearts now in their late 50s, arrive by chance at the same time in Rome, a city where they once spent a summer deeply in love, living together blissfully. At an awkward reunion, the two who parted in an atmosphere of passionate betrayal in the 1960s and haven't seen each other since are surprised to discover that they may have something to talk about. Both have their own guilt, their sense of who betrayed whom, and their long-held interpretation of the events that caused them not to marry and to split apart into the lives they've led since. Both are married to others, with grown children.
For the few weeks they are in Rome, Adam suggests that they meet for daily walks and get to know each other again. Gradually, as they take in the pleasures of the city and the drama of its streets, they discover not only what matters to them now but also more about what happened to them long ago.
Miranda and Adam are masterfully portrayed characters, intent upon understanding who they are in relation to who they were. A story about what first love means and how it is shattered, and the lessons old lovers may still have to share with each other many years later, The Love of My Youth is also a poignant look back at the hopes and dreams of a generation and what became of them.
High school sweethearts Miranda and Adam haven’t seen each other for more than 30 years ever since Adam painfully betrayed Miranda. Having both lived full lives since that time, the two end up in Rome together at the same time, and are re-introduced by a mutual friend. Meeting for daily outings in the historic city, they get to know the adult versions of each other the unrealized dreams and the realities of life in sharper focus than when they were teenagers. An interesting concept, the novel leads listeners to wonder What would my first love think of me, now?
Alice Rosengard has one strength as the narrator of this novel her Italian is beautiful and melodic. But when speaking English, her voice is warbly, sounding many years older than the protagonist’s age of 50-something. Her pace is staccato in strange places it sounds more as if she’s reciting poetry than a novel, and she infuses each sentence with drama, rather than letting the subtlety of the words wash over the listener. The difference in tone when she’s portraying Adam is so slight, that conversations between Miranda and Adam are confusing at times; it’s hard to tell who is speaking. Her tone in the flashback portions of the book is even more off-putting. The girlish, heady affections of teenage love are in disconnect with the quavering, elderly voice conveying them.
The narration often distracts from the carefully selected words and beautiful story-telling of author Mary Gordon, rather than enhancing them. But lovers of Rome, and those who have always wondered “what if?”, will still enjoy the premise of this slow-to-blossom novel. Colleen Oakley
“Virtuoso and versatile Gordon offers brilliantly fresh takes on family conflicts, women’s lives, war, and global suffering while ingeniously meshing classic love stories with modern mores, and ecstasy with wisdom, to create an enthralling drama of innocent passion, crushing tragedy, and the careful construction of stable, nurturing lives." (Booklist)
"Thoughtful and moving, Gordon's latest captures the ardor and vulnerability of young love and the cautious circumspection of middle age.... An accumulation of detail breathes life into her characters, and the writer's affection for this beloved, eternal city is endearing." (Publishers Weekly)
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The Love of my youth