Never Forget You by Jamila Gavin

Never Forget You by Jamila Gavin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have always had a lot of time for Jamila Gavin. Her writing is always very classy stuff and I admire it intently. She has this skill of restraint and clarity that makes you understand something, whatever that something is, very deeply before you quite realise what she’s done. I will always want to read her work because I think she’s one of the best authors that we have right now, quietly carving out this big and classic stories that feel like they’ve always been waiting for somebody like her to tell them.

Never Forget You is the story of four young women and how their lives are impacted by World War Two. The first thing to note is that it sits a little older than I expected it to sit, based on my first impressions, and so I’d encourage you to read it prior to using it in a classroom or educational context. If your readers are comfortable with things like Back Home, Code Name Verityor Tamar then they’ll be in the right area for this. It is also worthwhile noting that there’s nothing here that isn’t handled with grace and delicacy. Gavin’s with the reader every step of the way.

In terms of style, Never Forget You shifts between four different characters in very different circumstances. We begin with everybody at boarding school before the shattering effects of the war push people into new worlds, new lives. As is the nature of books like this, certain things will happen ‘off-screen’, so to speak, and that can feel difficult some times to swallow. Yet that’s kind of the whole point of it: the style tells you as much as the plot does itself. The sun rose, the sun set, people lived, people died, and the war whirled on.

(I’m thinking a lot about style as storytelling at the moment due to having recently read Tender Is the Night – the way that almost ‘collapsed’ at the end, the lack of interest it showed in anything but the lead, told you everything about his state of mind at that point…)

I loved, very much, how Gavin envelopes you in the wholeness of the story she has to tell. I love it when she lets go – there are some really interesting choices made here. She slips tenses, she uses extracts from The Song of The Stormy Petrel alongside wartime diaries, and she does it all very deliberately to make you feel the totality of this story, the immensity of this. This book really is the work of a storyteller.

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