Book Review: The Lessons by John Purcell

About the Book:

What if your first love was your one and only chance of happiness? In our lives, some promises are easily forgotten, while others come to haunt us with tragic results. From the bestselling author of The Girl on the Page comes The Lessons, a compelling novel about love and betrayal.

1961: When teens Daisy and Harry meet, it feels so right they promise to love each other forever, but in 1960s England everything is stacked against them: class, education, expectations. When Daisy is sent by her parents to live with her glamorous, bohemian Aunt Jane, a novelist working on her second book, she is confronted by adult truths and suffers a loss of innocence that flings her far from the one good thing in her life, Harry.

1983: Jane Curtis, now a famous novelist, is at a prestigious book event in New York, being interviewed about her life and work, including a novel about the traumatic coming of age of a young woman. But she won’t answer the interviewer’s probing questions. What is she trying to hide?

This is a novel about the painful lessons life has to teach us, about ourselves, about love, honesty and morality. Echoing novels such as Persuasion and A Room with a View and the memoir An EducationThe Lessons is a striking and powerful story about the loss of innocence and betrayal and how much we can forgive – if we forgive.

Published by HarperCollins Publishers Australia

Released April 2022

My Thoughts:

‘Art is about holding one’s breath. You have to dive deep and stay down for as long as you can. Those who dive deepest and stay down longest, those who hold their nerve, produce the best art.’

This novel. I am both speechless and filled with so much to say about it. The writing, the characterisation, the story; this is sublime fiction. An absolute cracker of a read.

‘We never mentioned Jane. We never mentioned not mentioning her either. There were times when I missed her terribly and others when I could have happily watched her burning at the stake.’

I think this might be the first time I’ve ever despised a character in a novel so much, yet still felt compelled to keep reading. Jane is the pits, an absolute disgrace of a woman. She literally destroys everything for everyone. And it was like she did it as some sort of experiment, a means of gathering experiences that she could then write about in her novels, further destroying those around her and forever condemning and immortalising them as recognisable figures within her fiction. And her sister Kate was not all that much better, the least mothering mother I’ve come across in a very long time. Daisy was like a ray of sunshine and yet, there was little hope for her remaining unscathed with Kate as a mother and Jane as an aunt.

‘The problem was, as awful as Jane could be, she was a force. Her character was challenging and abrasive, but one felt a coward not standing up to her. And when she was gone you felt her absence, which certainly wasn’t the case with most people.’

John Purcell might just be one of my favourite authors now. He is utterly brilliant at what he does, I am only regretting that I didn’t read this novel sooner and that I haven’t yet read his previous one. The twists within this story, the betrayals, the passions, the rage, the connections made and broken. And the dialogue! Everything about this novel was utter perfection. It has all the hallmarks of a literary classic. Is it too early to call book of the year? Five solid stars.

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

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