Did you – like me – relish the novels of Mary Wesley back in the 80s into the early 90s? Well, if this is so I have good news for you. Josa Young has picked up the baton on that unique blend of eccentricity, no holds barred life and love among the titled, the well-off and the not so well-off. And if you’re of the certain age that leads to reminiscences about the 80s, starting in 1982 One Apple Tasted will take you on very entertaining trip down memory lane. Have no doubt that you will feel the era rising from the page for Josa Young, with a background in journalism, including time spent at Vogue, knows her fashions and all are perfectly described.
On the surface, Dora Jerusalem is like any other young woman starting a career in the media in London after Cambridge. She is learning the ropes, loves to party and is optimistic about life and love. At one of those parties she hooks up with Guy Boleyn and an unconventional relationship follows as they drift in and out of one another’s lives as friends and almost lovers. When in the ‘out’ phase Guy philanders and Dora remains loyal and hopeful. But Dora also harbours a secret, something she feels the need to protect even though it may be considered a stigma.
What follows combines the eccentric with ‘tales of the unexpected’ in the modern world. Along the way, we also learn of the lives of others from as far back as the two world wars and how those lives impacted on our would-be lovers. In One Apple Tasted love works not so much in mysterious ways as lays emotional mines to be tentatively negotiated across the generations.
One of the beauties of One Apple Tasted is its examination of family life, slipping under the covers of both the conventional and the unconventional. I was in tears on two occasions and I also laughed out loud; all emotional responses welcomed and a tribute to the novel. On times, Dora’s character did require some suspension of disbelief, but for such a joy! Her development in the story led to one absolutely fantastic scene of ‘behaving badly’ – something to relish when read but would also transfer wonderfully to the screen. (Duck Face in Four Weddings and a Funeral is mere dishwater in comparison with Dora…)
On the back cover you will find a short synopsis indicating that the story moves from 1982 to 1958 and then to 1939. This proved to be an excellent technique in the writing as where these earlier periods ended I wanted to know the resolution immediately and felt intense frustration. The result was the turning of pages akin to reading a finely crafted thriller in a novel that did not allow a cheat by looking at the end alone.
Above all this is novel of exuberance, celebrating life. Remaining with reality, it also has its dark moments and depression is skilfully handled, for example. When it comes to the bedroom, the door is not closed to the reader and all is refreshingly normal, with the simultaneous ‘O’ a fluke of lust or an ongoing aspiration. Dora is not the only feisty woman in One Apple Tasted and I take my hat off to all of them, including the author.
One Apple Tasted makes a rich banquet of a story and, while taking inspiration from Mary Wesley’s novels, has a unique and modern flavour of its own. I look forward to more from this author; she knows how to get under a skin.
[With thanks to the author for the copy read.]