Lovers and Newcomers by Rosie Thomas (Amazon link)
Description: Rosie Thomas, beloved by readers for her brilliantly realized characters and twisting, page-turning plots, turns her "sharp nib" (Washington Post Book World) to a group of older friends in this evocative story of camaraderie and its challenges.
Miranda Meadowe decides a lonely widowhood in her crumbling country house is not for her. Reviving a university dream, she invites five of her oldest friends to come and join her to live, and to stave off the prospect of old age. All have their own reasons for accepting.
To begin with, the omens are good. They laugh, dance, drink and behave badly, as they cling to the heritage they thought was theirs for ever: power, health, stability. They are the baby boomers; the world is theirs to change.
But as old attractions resurface alongside new tensions, they discover that the clock can’t be put back. When building work reveals an Iron Age burial site of a tribal queen, the outside world descends on their idyllic retreat, and the isolation of the group is breached. The past is revealed – and the future that beckons is very different from the one they imagined.
Why I Picked This Book: I adored Thomas' Iris and Ruby earlier this year and definitely wanted to try more of her books. I liked how different this one sounded from Iris and Ruby as well.
My Impression: I'm pretty sure inviting 5 friends to come live with me even in separate houses may be one of the ideas that appeals to me the least in real life so I was curious to see what I thought of it in fiction form. The answer? So not for me but very entertaining to read about!
I did find that with this one, like many books with an ensemble cast, it took me awhile to get drawn into the novel and really get a feel for the characters. In addition to the 5 friends Miranda invites to her home there are also several characters from the town, members of an archaeological team, and a handful of children of some of the friends. With all the characters there is also quite a bit going on with backstories both from long ago and recently, current relationship issues, coming to terms with aging, ancient discoveries and dealing with adult children. I didn't find it confusing but it was hard not to be a little detached at first. However, even when I wasn't as engaged as I wanted to be I was still interested.
Once I did get to know the characters and understand what was going on a bit better it swiftly became a book I didn't want to put down. Something about how the relationships between the characters reminded me of Rosamunde Pilcher - especially Shell Seekers and September. I did feel like it was a bit darker but there was the same matter of fact dysfunction that Pilcher excels at portraying.
If you enjoy fiction packed with characters that have interesting backstories than I think you'd enjoy Lovers and Newcomers.
Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Absolutely! While I didn't enjoy this book as much as Iris and Ruby I'm looking forward to seeing where else Thomas takes me!
Would I Recommend this Book?: I would definitively recommend this author and I would recommend this book but be prepared for a slower start.