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Altered Land

by Jules Hardy

Several visitors to the site and others recommended this book so we gave it a go. We were not disappointed.
This is a hauntingly beautiful story about love in its many guises but centres principally on Joan, a talented and beautiful single mother, and her son John. John's reminiscences and Joan's journal provide the narration alternately to tell the story of how being in the wrong place at the wrong time ripped their lives apart.
To give an account of the story would be to give too much away, rather I will try to describe the depth of feeling in this book. Sometimes when I was reading Joan's journal I felt like an intruder, the language is so powerful. I found particularly moving the scenes in which she describes the two of them at the beach near their home in the West Country where, as a child, John is in his element (she calls him her 'Merboy'). These scenes are so evocative you can almost smell the sea and hear the rattling sound of the shells that John meticulously collects in his plastic bucket. I confess to being envious of the purity of their intimacy at these moments. They live this idyllic contented life until John's thirteenth birthday when disaster strikes and their lives are irrevocably altered.
John grows up falls in love and marries Sonia. John's love for Sonia is equally pure and unconditional. Sonia has a condition called synaesthesia which means that her senses are mingled. John explains "She wakes up to the alarm on Monday mornings tasting peaches, she listens to the opera and sees John Martin's vast canvases. She eats spaghetti and her hands tingle as if a bolt of silk is being pulled through themů" This makes her all the more special to him, which in turn makes what is to come so hard to bear.
There are, of course, others in the lives of these two - John's friend and business partner Ian and Ellen, Joan's down to earth American friend but it is the mother-son relationship that is central to this book and the strength and courage that it takes for that relationship to survive the unthinkable.


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