The Very Thought of You
By Rosie Alison
Completed May 21, 2010
Before being shortlisted for the 2010 Orange Prize, The Very Thought of You by Rosie Alison had not been reviewed by a major literary critic. Now, many reviewers and book lovers are catching up, and reviews are coming in about this dark horse in the Orange Prize race.
The Very Thought of You begins right before England declares war on Germany during the Second World War. Eight-year-old Anna Sands is beginning her journey as a refugee to the English countryside, dispatched by her mother who feared London would be bombed during the war. Anna arrives at the estate owned by a childless couple, Thomas and Elizabeth Ashton. There, Anna assimiliates to a new routine with school, friends and country life. She witnesses, though, conflicts of love and lust that are well beyond her years.
Alison’s depiction of England and the child refugee’s life was eluminating. It’s amazing the sacrifices the English made during this time. Despite the atrocities of war, “regular” life trudged on – a poetry assignment, the purchase of blankets, a daily prayer.
While the historical aspects of The Very Thought of You were interesting, the numerous love issues of the adult characters were troubling. Three marriages were in shambles, with couples cheating on each other, and a general sense of selfishness was abound. It was adultery overkill. Alison should have focused on the demise of one couple, Thomas and Elizabeth Ashton, who presented the most interesting case of why a marriage could fail. The rest of the love affairs distracted from the story.
Despite this, I was enamored by Alison’s characters, especially Anna, and intrigued by the historic setting of the story. Alison’s writing style was swift and moving. I would recommend The Very Thought of You to anyone interested in the lives of those on the British homefront during World War II.