Blog tour: True Love by Paddy Crewe

True Love

This post is part of a blog tour organised by Random Things Blog Tours. I received a free copy of the book in return for an honest review.

‘What does it mean to love and be loved?

‘It is the 1980s and Finn and Keely are growing up in the North East of England.

‘Keely is a fighter. Even in the face of loss she strives to seek connection, but finds that she’s not always searching in the right places.

‘Finn is quiet, sensitive, distant. He spends much of his time alone, yet deep down he wants to discover the thrill of relating to others.

‘When the two finally meet, everything is changed. Love – with all of its attendant joys and costs – is thrust upon them, and each must decide if they will bend or break under its pressure.

True Love is a story of the trials of youth, the bonds of family and friendship, and of how much we are willing to risk to have ourselves be seen.’

True Love

In True Love, by Paddy Crewe, we follow two alienated young people, Keely and Finn, through adolescence and early adulthood.

Keely’s life has been shaped by loss: her mother and younger brother both died before she was a teenager and, after uprooting Keely from the tight-knit camp where she grew up, her father deserted her when she still needed him. She works in a shop and finds solace in drink and books.

Finn never knew his parents, as his mother left him to be raised by his nan and grandad. Although he’s well-treated, the cross-generational relationship is not one of easy intimacy, and Finn elects to fly under the radar at home and school as much as he can. He likes to dig for treasure by himself in the nearby river bed.

Finn eventually finds an emotional outlet as a singer in a fledgling rock band, but he doesn’t enjoy life on the road, and gives it up to work in a butcher’s shop when he meets Keely and the pair enter into an intense romantic relationship.

True Love is one of those books where much of the action is everyday and unspectacular, but it’s written in such a beautiful, profound way that you can’t help but get pulled in and really care about the unshowy characters (think: The Stone Diaries, by Carol Shields).

The level of detail the author goes into about Keely and Finn’s inner lives, and the places and people around them, made it very easy for me to create – and luxuriate in – images in my head. It also conveys the message that these ordinary-seeming characters are nonetheless highly interesting, and absolutely worth examining.

Crewe compounds this by refusing to judge, or write off, either character. While Keely can no longer face going to school after losing her brother, and Finn can’t find the will to make the effort with his exams and doesn’t have any particular ambitions, these are presented as understandable positions, and not the end of the world.

With their rich interiority, competence at the work they do alongside/after leaving school, and intellectual interests they cultivate outside of the classroom (literature for Keely; songwriting and archaeology for Finn), the two of them are demonstrably far from stupid. It’s just that school isn’t the right environment for them at the age they’re expected to go there.

That’s not to say they never do anything stupid – both Keely and Finn had me wanting to howl “noooooo!” at them at different points – but these are treated as very human aberrations that they can, at least to some extent, come back from with time and grace.

While I loved and wanted the best for both characters, I could particularly relate to Finn. Like him, I found invisibility and living predominantly in my own head to be the best strategy for surviving school – and struggled to cope when I inadvertently attracted attention and people made A Thing of it.

Also in common with Finn, I went on to discover writing and performing for an audience (spoken word, in my case) to be a safe way to express my emotions on my own terms. It was really validating to see so many of my experiences reflected on the page.

True Love is a moving, compassionately-written novel that renders the ordinary extraordinary.

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About Alice Violett

Writer of blogs and short stories, reader of books, player of board games, lover of cats, editor of web content, haver of PhD.

Colchester, UK