The new novel from Irish author Erin Kaye, Always You is a grand love story for our time, spanning from Northern Ireland to Australia and painting a romantic picture of each as well as our star-crossed protagonists.
Sarah and Cahal met at university but come from backgrounds that are worlds apart despite both hailing from Ballyfergus near Belfast. A desperate Cahal moved to Australia to start a new life after their struggles became too hard and both subsequently moved on- at least outwardly. Twenty years on, Cahal returns with his job and lost feelings are discovered and stirred up.
Cahal is one of those dreamy characters who is very hard to resist, even in book form. He is constantly described as being ridiculously good looking and tanned as well as romantic and sweet, with a touch of sensible realism in there too. Sarah, on the other hand, was harder for me to like, with her judgements of others, self-righteousness and condescending comments. I also struggled to build up a picture of her in my head, so she just felt quite plain. Of course she had some good points, namely her caring relationship with Evelyn, but I was often left wanting to hear more on Cahal’s side than hers, which is the opposite to the way the book’s focus lay.
Seeing Ian’s unhappiness also led to a feeling of discouragement with Sarah, especially as she consistently seemed to be trying to get away from him as quickly as possible when he just wanted to talk to her. However, Ian is essential to show the value of self-sacrifice and the different types of love, and he is the most admirable character by the end of the book.
For me, the book’s major triumph is its treatment of a certain abhorrent and traumatic event and the effect it can have on a person and their family for many years after an event. It’s rare to see this subject considered so poignantly in what could otherwise be a fairly standard chick-lit. It does seem as though, by the end, this event is forgotten about almost as quickly as it was first mentioned, but of course it’s also believable that the family don’t want to talk about it more than necessary and thus leave it alone again.
One other negative point is that, as original as a lot of the book was in its tale of two broken families with children as their ultimate priorities, there were some unforgivably clichéd moments that seemingly came straight from a Jennifer Aniston rom-com. The worst offender is the classic airport dash- I will say no more, but this did make me groan quite loudly. Still, I have to stress that I found the book as a whole really enjoyable and it was a great, easy read whilst still offering some serious topics to think about and being a realistic portrayal of life as a modern woman for whom things went slightly wrong.