The good: Very intense – nothing is done by halves in this novel.
The not-so-good: Both Mel and Matt were quite immature at times, which was frustrating.
Why I chose it: Thank you to Tess and Harper Collins.
Publisher: Harper Collins
Setting: Perth and Melbourne, Australia
My rating: 8 out of 10
I have to preface this review by saying that this is a difficult book to review without getting caught up emotionally in one of the main themes of the book, infidelity. So please excuse me when I break it down into parts – it’s not meant to sound like an instruction manual but I feel I will give Love at First Flight the most honest review this way!
First, I think most of the internet knows this book is about two attached people having an affair. It’s about Mel, late 30s, married with children who appears to have it all – great family, great husband, giant fancy house and good job. But she sort of feels a kind of guilty discontent that is activated when she meets Matt, a younger man in his late twenties on a flight from Perth to Melbourne (about 3-3.5 hours depending on how much your pilot puts his/her foot down). Matt is engaged, pretty happy (he has his own business but his soon to be in-laws don’t like him) and he is floored when he meets Mel. He chats her up inflight and although Mel explains her situation, she’s flattered and obsessed. This is the start of an obsessive, passionate affair that will destroy their partners and change both their lives.
I’m not sure that 3-3.5 hours is enough personally to fall instantly in love (yes, I have been chatted up on the same route, and no, it didn’t turn into insta-love. It was fun though). My personal thoughts are that rather than being in love, Mel and Matt are obsessed by each other. The way some people get about famous people, kale or cars. It’s all consuming, heady and delightful but it burns itself out. I think that both Mel and Matt went into the relationship seeking different things (possibly unconsciously) and that their ages/stage in life had something to do with it. Mel was looking for something exciting, something different. She wanted recognition that she was still beautiful and had the ability to catch someone’s eye. I believe that Matt had doubts about his fiancé Lydia and their long term compatibility – I think he wanted to see if he could fall in love with someone else to determine that his feelings for Lydia weren’t mutually exclusive.
Saying that, I think both Mel and Matt were incredibly immature at times with the way they lied to their partners and family. If they had to act on their feelings, I wish they could have been more circumspect. As health professionals, couldn’t they have used the common sense that is integral to their job just a touch in their personal lives? But they didn’t, and that’s why things blew up so spectacularly and caused the excruciating pain for not only themselves, but their loved ones. I don’t feel that I can comment confidently on the infidelity, as I’ve not experienced it myself. It’s a taboo not explored often in fiction, particularly not with such brutal outcomes. It doesn’t paint a picture that it’s acceptable or happy to have an affair but tells as it affects everyone surrounding the couple.
The story is told by alternating first person from Matt and Mel. I liked this as I really got into their heads and saw what they were thinking. It was brutally honest and sometimes disconcerting too as both of them tried to justify their behaviour to themselves and each other. Matt is a total charmer and really believes in his love for Mel. There were times when I felt that Matt was weak from Mel’s point of view, but in his next first person view, he was able to ‘talk me round’ to see his side of the story. Mel is completely mixed up, but in her first person chapters, she tries to justify things. Both of them get it completely wrong, but by the conclusion of the novel, they have both grown as characters. I found that Mel at the conclusion of the novel was much more likable than Mel in the middle. As for Matt, I’d like to think he has grown up, but I worry that he’s going to confuse and hurt others again…
The first person point of view from both main characters can be hard to pull off, but Tess Woods does it with a skill that belies the fact that this is her debut novel. Sometimes this style of writing turns into repetitiveness of scenes, but Woods takes each aspect of the story and tells it from only one of the character’s views. When the other character next speaks, they may mention something from the previous chapter but it’s not going over old ground. Wood’s style also knows how to wring the reader’s emotions, I don’t think I’ve felt such a range in the one book and so raw too. The part where Mel’s husband finds out about her affair is excruciatingly gut-wrenching, you can’t help but feel what each character is going through.
This is a powerhouse of a book that will create conversation.