This is Not Forgiveness by Celia Rees, published by Bloomsbury on 2nd February 2012
Everyone says that Caro is bad ...but Jamie can't help himself. He thinks of her night and day and can't believe that she wants to be his girlfriend. Gorgeous, impulsive and unconventional, she is totally different to all the other girls he knows. His sister, Martha, hates her. Jamie doesn't know why, but there's no way he's going to take any notice of her warnings to stay away from Caro.
But as Jamie falls deeper and deeper under her spell, he realises there is more to Caro - much more. There are the times when she disappears and doesn't get in touch, the small scars on her wrists, her talk about revolutions and taking action, not to mention the rumours he hears about the other men in her life. And then always in the background there is Rob, Jamie's older brother, back from Afghanistan and traumatised after having his leg smashed to bits there.
Jamie wants to help him, but Rob seems to be living in a world of his own and is increasingly difficult to reach. With Caro, the summer should have been perfect ...but that isn't how things work out in real life, and Jamie is going to find out the hard way.
Review:This is Celia Rees as you’ve never seen her before. Throw out any pre-conceived notions you may have about this book based on her previous writing because this is a very different change of direction. More commonly known for her historical fiction, this is a contemporary story of an altogether different nature.
‘This is Not Forgiveness’ deals with a subject matter Rees has never touched upon before but one which is very topical at the moment. She addresses the theme of war and how people returning from combat have to learn to adapt to civilian life, while dealing with the long lasting effects of having experienced death firsthand. I like the way Rees also shows the effect that their return can have on their friends and family.
The powerful opening had me curious and intrigued about the story from the very first few pages. We know that Rob is dead and his younger brother Jamie has his ashes in an urn. The actual story unfolds a year prior to this, showing how Rob's death occurred, while keeping the reader on their toes and guessing about what may have occurred. Things are never quite as they first seem.
The three narrative strands ensure that the feelings of all three of the main characters are laid bare. There's Jamie who I immediately liked, his older brother Rob who has been injured and traumatised by the war in Afghanistan and the beautiful and elusive Caro who it took me a little while to warm to. They each have very distinctive voices and personalities and I enjoyed getting to see events from each of their perspectives.
The story is hard hitting and the subject matter is often difficult to read about but I found it a thought provoking and interesting book. There's no neat happy ending and things are often messy and complicated for the characters, but I think this honestly and accurately reflects real life, showing that not everything can be easily fixed.