Book – Never Anyone But You

Author – Rupert Thomson

Year – 2018

Pages – 344

Genre – Historical Fiction

Bought for me by Bob and Michelle

Despite our reading rivalry from a decade ago (a decade, seriously!), Bob is someone whose opinion on books I hugely appreciate. He has often chided me for my very high scores (I got a message very soon after the Bill Clinton book asking me how on Earth I could have scored it so highly) but it is because he is more critical of the books he reads that I am, and I am truly sad that he doesn’t update his blog any more with the books he reads.

Well he and Michelle got me two books for Christmas, and he said that this one was the one that would stay with him most out of all he read this year. Having always enjoyed his recommendations, I got going on this as soon as I could.

The book follows the real life story of Suzanne and Lucie, also known as Marcel and Claude, two French lovers who revel in the Parisian art scene of the early 1900s. We see them grow from teenagers through many family troubles, successes, problems and eventually on to the Second World War. There is constant crossover with famous bohemians of the time – Dali, Breton, Stein – but the main focus is on the relationship between these two women and what they endured.

For me, it was a book of two halves. Unfortunately, the first half was incredibly dreary. The two main characters are fascinating, and their relationship is a wonderful thing to read about, but instead of this as the primary part of the book, we hear all about all of the exciting people that they meet instead. It feels remarkably name droppy for a book that is not an autobiography. Although I am sure it is incredibly well researched, it is such as shame that this is the focus, as the scenes with just Suzanne and Claude, or those that explore their relationship, are far more interesting, and most of their friends are only briefly mentioned throughout. It means that ultimately, most of the first half is quite simply boring.

Thankfully, that all changes at about the midway point. When we reach the point at which World War II occurs, the book changes up a notch. By stripping back from all of these unnecessary secondary characters we focus instead on the two leads, and it is a much more satisfactory read. These characters a real, and the lives they led were real, and in the second half Thomson shows us just how moving and fascinating these lives could be. There are real heart in mouth moments, and it becomes a truly wonderful book.

It is one of the most conflicted I have felt about a book after finishing it in a long time. If it had continued as it began I would be scathing here, but in a way, the sheer quality of the second half makes the book almost more disappointing. It deserved to be better than it was, and Thomson obviously has the skill, so I am even sadder that it didn’t live up to its own hype. Having said all this, I can, and have, and will, recommend this book. Their story is well worth hearing about.