Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Decision Book Review

The Decision by Penny Vincenzi

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A love affair between self-made property tycoon Matt Shaw and dazzling fashion editor Eliza Clark, spanning sixties London, the extravagance of Milan and the glamour of New York.

A marriage that's both passionate and difficult, as Matt and Eliza's lives become irrevocably divided and entwined with others: charming advertising man Jeremy Northcott; flamboyant Italian fashion icon Mariella Crespi; Matt's sister Scarlett, who has her own complicated love affairs. And then there's Louise, Matt's tough and sassy business partner, as successful as he is and fighting for her future.

A child, Emmie, adored, precocious, and ultimately the victim of her parents' doomed marriage, she both holds them together and drives them apart.

The decision, which is agonizing and desperate, and taken in the divorce courts - where truths will be told, secrets revealed and reputations shattered. And at the heart of it all lies the fate of a little girl.

Review by Brittany:

I am a die-hard fan of Vincenzi's novels, and this one was no exception. Her characters are always so well fleshed out, even the minor characters, that they feel more like real people than so many other characters in other novels. Vincenzi also fleshes out her plot lines well, leaving no detail out and covering even the most tedious parts of a story.

This book had all of the qualities that I so love about Vincenzi. One thing that did stick out to me in this one is that Matt, the "hero" of the story, is not quite as likeable as other characters in the novel. He has moments when he is so surprisingly generous and sweet, but often he is buried under the chip on his shoulder from being brought up poor, which never leaves him. Even as he becomes successful and makes oodles of money, he still holds onto his grudges about having to be self-made. He was often grumpy and unbending, constantly giving Eliza a hard time throughout their marriage for wanting to maintain some of her own identity, even after becoming a mother. I found him hard to like.

Emmie was written to be a spoiled, manipulative child who knew what strings to tug to get her way every time. Towards the end of the book, when the divorce and custody case is being worked out, I was almost surprised at how much both Eliza and Matt wanted to have Emmie live solely with them. As a character, Emmie wasn't written to seem particularly wonderful, and there aren't many times in the book when either of her parents seemed overly taken with her, with the exception of the end. Matt often expressed his feelings that it was Eliza's job to take care of Emmie, leaving me with the feeling that he was disinterested in being an active father.

Despite the inconsistencies I felt there were in each parent's relationship with Emmie, and my general dislike of Matt as a character, I still loved the book. Vincenzi used this book to focus on marriages, the ways in which they work and the slow ways in which they can crumble. While Eliza and Matt are the focus of the book, other relationships are explored. Scarlett, Matt's sister, has an inability to meet single men and often gets entangled with married ones instead. Mariella, Eliza's good friend, is married to a man who is twice her age and exceptionally rich, causing questions as to why she married him in the first place.

All of these relationships are well-explored, making this another big hit with me. I love Vincenzi's delicious writing and the ways in which she can make me think about relationships.

Notable quotes:

In short, being with him was complete and absolute pleasure; she felt cared for, amused, interested, satisfied in every way.

Love invaded you, and even when it had become the enemy it was not to be easily overpowered.

Money, she saw in that moment of ferocious clarity, wasn't just the means whereby you acquired what you wanted or even needed; money was power, and lack of your own supply, even under the most benign and domestic of circumstances, was a genuine and rather ugly impotence.

"It's hard to describe, it's a kind of fear, I suppose. Of being judged and found wanting. A feeling you're safer just with yourself."

Marriages do not suddenly drop dead; they expire slowly, from a thousand cutting words, a million misunderstandings, from an unwillingness to apologise to a willingness to take revenge. There is a dawning, slow at first then gathering pace, that things are not as they were and moreover not as they should be, that responses are not what is hoped for, that disappointment is more frequent than delight, that resentment is more persistent than forgiveness, all remarked upon and brooded over and then stored angrily away. Desire dies, affection withers, trust becomes a memory.

By this time tomorrow she would know. Whether she would still be a mother, a proper mother, the sort that did the ordinary things, got her child up every morning and tucked her up in bed every night, took her to school and picked her up again, knew when she'd had a tummy ache or a bad dream, got cross with her, argued with her, decided when the get her hair cut, or that she needed new shoes, tolder her off for skimping on her homework or her ballet practice, insisted she made her bed and tidied her room and wrote thank-you letters and cleaned out the hamster's cage...Or the other sort, the once-a-week sort, the provider of a perfect room and whatever-you-fancy food, who waited impatiently outside school, aware of the mild curiosity of the other mothers, the purveyor of treats and outings, and ultra-generosity to friends, surprised by a new dress, a fringe, a fad, always with time to give, over-indulgent, never cross, never critical, desperate to know about a school concert, a friend's party, plans for a holiday, watchful for new loyalties, jealous of new traditions... 

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