Strengths: Always entertaining, varied characters and attention to detail.
Weaknesses: The book is quite large and therefore quite heavy.
Why I read it: I’ve enjoyed Penny Vincenzi’s other works.
Setting: England, Italy
Rating: 9 out of 10
If you liked this, try: Almost a Crime by Penny Vincenzi
I really like Penny Vincenzi’s books – you know that you are guaranteed an interesting plot, well written characters and an element of surprise. The Decision is no exception. It is slightly unusual in that you know what will happen to the main characters Eliza and Matt ultimately – it’s no secret that they will get divorced. But it is an interesting reflection on what leads to a marriage and then its downfall. All but the epilogue is revealed by the blurb on the back cover. Is it still worth reading? Of course.
Like Vincenzi’s other books, The Decision is quite weighty (and the large format paperback was still cheaper than the ebook). It is a tome to carry around, so I’d suggest that the ebook may be easier for portability (and anonymity if that’s what you’d prefer). The story is very engaging, and as always, there is a lot of skill involved in creating the supporting characters – they are all memorable from the horrid Juliet to Jenny, the biscuit-wielding receptionist. Each has their quirks which makes such a long list of characters (thoughtfully summarised at the beginning of the book) unique and unforgettable.
Surprisingly, much of the book focuses on the earlier, happier days of Matt and Eliza – how they met, their romance and early marriage. Emmie, their daughter, is thoroughly precocious (to illustrate, she gets lost and is found trying on shoes in a department store!) but lovable. It’s easy to see how Matt and Eliza both want custody of her. The divorce itself is fraught with tension and I found it hard to decide which team to ‘bat for’ – Matt or Eliza? Both had obvious faults to their claim for custody (even in 1960s London, adultery was still frowned upon). I found the ultimate decision a little strange and perhaps a bet each way, even though it’s probably a logical conclusion. The ending tied up a little too neatly for my tastes, but it also ensures the reader knows exactly what happens to each character.
Although this book is set in 1950s-70s London predominantly, there is not too much use made of the setting. The Swinging Sixties gets a glimpse, but the plot could be set anywhere, anytime. This is not a criticism, just a comment.
This is still a lovely, warming read, leaving you satisfied with some brain stimulation. It’s easy to imagine the characters and the settings – Penny Vincenzi does these types of characters (generally middle to upper class British) so well.