Monday, 8 March 2021

Review: Life After Truth by Ceridwen Dovey

Publisher: Swift Press
Published: 4th March 2021

Fifteen years after graduating from Harvard, five close friends on the cusp of middle age are still pursuing an elusive happiness and wondering if they've wasted their youthful opportunities. Mariam and Rowan, who married young, are struggling with the demands of family life and starting to regret prioritising meaning over wealth in their careers. Jules, already a famous actor when she arrived on campus, is changing in mysterious ways but won't share what is haunting her. Eloise, now a professor who studies the psychology of happiness, is troubled by her younger wife's radical politics. And Jomo, founder of a luxury jewellery company, has been carrying an engagement ring around for months, unsure whether his girlfriend is the one. 

The soul-searching begins in earnest at their much-anticipated college reunion weekend on the Harvard campus, when the most infamous member of their class, Frederick - senior advisor and son of the recently elected and loathed US President - turns up dead. Old friends often think they know everything about one another, but time has a way of making us strangers to those we love - and to ourselves...

'Life After Truth' was not the story that I was originally expecting. The book is marketed as being about a group of five friends who meet over one weekend at their Harvard School reunion, fifteen years after they all graduated together. The line from the blurb that caught my eye was the one about the US President's son Frederick, an infamous member of their class, turning up dead on the same weekend. I think I can be forgiven for thinking therefore that this was going to be a murder mystery. A tense whodunnit with the five friends possibly implicated in the death. I was actually way off the mark because the death of Frederick is actually almost a forgotten side note in the book. Insignificant and almost unimportant until the very end. And that's okay because although this might not have been the book I thought it was going to be, I enjoyed it regardless. The story centres around the main characters who reflect on their lives and the journeys that they have all been on, since their days as young students. 

Each chapter is told in the third person and focuses on a different character. Out of the group of friends, I particularly enjoyed the chapters from the perspective of married couple Mariam and Rowan, who fell in love at Harvard, married young and now have two small children in tow. They felt the most relatable to me as they don't have the same wealth and comfort as the others but have a different kind of happiness. I enjoyed the reflection on the events of their past and the insight given into their marriage and how it has been changed by the arrival of their children. 

I felt more detached from some of the other characters, such as Eloise, a 'Happiness' professor, who questions many of her life choices. There was also a lot about AI and the ethics of this in her parts of the book, which I didn't find as interesting. However, the other two members of the group, Jomo and Jules, definitely fascinated me. The line between love and friendship is very much blurred between them as they have left so many things unspoken. The character of Jules seems to be based on Harvard graduate Natalie Portman and she is the only person who doesn't get to share her own thoughts with the reader. That makes her come across as quite elusive which was intriguing. 

'Life After Truth' may not have been the story that I was expecting when I first picked up the book but it was still a thoughtful read about life and friendship. It explores the effect that time can have on a group of people and the way in which relationships can change and evolve. I haven't read anything by Ceridwen Dovey before but I will certainly look out for her future titles, as I really enjoyed her writing style. 

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