If I Could Tell You

Penguin. Feb. 2017. 320p. ISBN 9780143130437. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781524704070. F
Living by the English seaside on the brink of World War II, housewife Julia Compton lives for her son's holidays from boarding school. Until, that is, she meets film director Dougie Birdsall, who is shooting a documentary in her close-knit community. Wilhide's second novel after Ashenden could more appropriately be titled "Anatomy of an Affair" as Julia and Dougie embark on a path of no return that has spiraling consequences for two families, especially Julia's young son Peter. When the lovers move to London so that Dougie can make war films, even the Blitz takes a backseat to the ebbs and flows of passion between the couple. Wilhide's main characters fail to elicit sympathy, but her short, evocative phrasing packs a punch on matters of the heart.
VERDICT Readers who enjoy introspective and morally ambiguous tales such as Jojo Moyes's The Last Letter from Your Lover and Anita Shreve's The Pilot's Wife will want to pick up this tale from a promising writer. At times a bit slow-paced, Wilhide's title delves deep into the human psyche, especially when it comes to loving and losing.

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