Book Review: The Lessons by John Purcell

This novel is a compelling story of a forbidden first love, class division and betrayal.

It’s 1961 when sixteen- year- old Daisy comes home from boarding school and meets young farmer, Harry. They fall deeply in love but her mother intervenes deciding that Daisy should be away from his influence and sends her to her Aunt Jane’s house unaware that the young Daisy is pregnant.

Daisy has always been convinced that her mother does not love her, and given that her mother was forced to marry Daisy’s father because she herself was pregnant at a young age gives rise to their fractious relationship.

Interspersed between the 1961’s timeline we meet Aunt Jane in 1983. She is a writer of renown on her way to a literary event in New York where she is interviewed about an earlier work exploring a coming of age novel, said to be drawn from real life.

We are privy to the point of views from Daisy, Harry and Jane which is cleverly handled to propel the story forward as Purcell explores how far a person would go for love, given numerous obstacles thrown their way.

Jane, a bohemian character in a marriage of what seems to be convenience is lost in her own relationships. Harry is a simple man who knows what he wants and that is Daisy. The interference by her mother and Jane creates a tragic outcome for the young lovers who go through life always yearning for one another.

I worried about Purcell’s handling of the female point of view particularly during a troubling event but I thought he handled it sensitively and well. The power of this novel is the characters and Purcell cleverly ensures that the reader quickly engages and cares about each one of them, even the ones who don’t behave all that well.

I really couldn’t put this one down, loved the swinging sixties, filled with lusty scenes, class differences and the final eyebrow raising reveal towards the end. Yes, check this one out.

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