The History of Us by Jonathan Harvey
Published by Pan in 2016
My copy: Library
Kathleen, Adam and Jocelyn are three teenage friends who bond over an unconventional nativity play. They all have ambitions, they all have dreams. Adam wants to be a writer, Jocelyn wants to sing and Kathleen – well, she wants to be an embalmer.
Kathleen is a borderline alcoholic, Adam is holding on to a shocking secret and Jocelyn is dead. Where did it all go wrong? How did having the world at their feet turn into having the weight of it on their shoulders?
I was really looking forward to reading this book, as I had loved The Girl Who Just Disappeared when I read it last year. And the start of the book seemed really promising. We are introduced to Adam and Kathleen, old friends who are reunited at the funeral of their other old friend Jocelyn. There is obviously a lot of mystery in their past and we wonder why the friends lost touch – and why Jocelyn has committed suicide.
We then flashback 30 years to Liverpool, where the three first met, and we find out a bit more about them and their pasts. I enjoyed the first section set in Liverpool, and I liked Kathleen’s nan and the banter between the three friends.
But as the book progressed I found I had more and more problems with it. The timeline skips about all over the place, and we get the perspectives of all three characters then and now, as well as smaller sections by a fourth character. I found this structure to be confusing and quite annoying – and I was often unsure where we were in the story and at what points the three were friends or had fallen out.
The other thing that bothered me was that the three were all so horrible to each other, and I never really understood why they were friends at all. In fact I found little to like about any of the characters and I never took to any of the three, which made me ultimately not really care what happened to any of them. The structure really didn’t help as it was hard to really get to know them or build up a picture of them.
Ultimately I was really disappointed with this book, and I have to admit I thought it was a bit of a mess in terms of the structure. Some of the dialogue was fun and witty, as you would expect from this author, but this wasn;t enough to save the book, and if I am honest I was just happy to finish it by the end.