‘I’m living, for now, in Strasbourg – a city of kitsch, cloying beauty; of Hansel & Gretel houses; of souvenir clutter and rusted postcard carousels; of sluggish canals and idle swans’
What We Didn’t Say is the debut novel from Rory Dunlop. It is published by Twenty7, an imprint of Bonnier Zaffre, and will be released as an ebook on 30th June 2016. I received my copy from NetGalley & Bonnier Zaffre in exchange for my honest review.
‘Jack and Laura have separated. Jack thinks it’s all Laura’s fault.
Jack writes to Laura, desperate to put across his side of the story.
Wryly sarcastic and intensely well-observed, What We Didn’t Say is about that gap between words and feelings where relationships live – and die.’
What We Didn’t Say is a beautiful novel about writer and psychologist, Jack Randall and his wife Laura Ferguson. The book is narrated through a series of emails, letters and a diary that have passed hands between Laura and Jack.
Jack and Laura are college sweethearts. They met when Jack was tutoring Laura. They married and had what they both thought was a very happy, though dull, marriage. Jack was older than Laura. He preferred a night at the weekly table quiz in the local pub. Laura wanted more out of life. For her, the glamour of a party with arty types was more appealing.
Up to a point in their marriage, both were happy to accommodate the other but as time passed the routine of life set in for Laura and she wanted to mix things up a bit.
Laura met Jack when in her twenties, so she never attended the wild student parties. She never took a gap year and traveled. All holidays were in the UK, even though Laura wanted to travel, see the world.
Laura needed confirmation of their relationship and their love. Jack was not one to express his emotions until it was too late.
‘I know she wanted me to be more expressive but my love for her was too obvious to need voicing, let alone repetition. It’s like walking up a mountain. The view is less enjoyable if you have to stop every few minutes to talk about it.’
Communication between them seemed to have stayed.
Throughout the diary that Jack has written, we get a poignant insight into a marriage, where both are seeing things in a completely different way. Laura makes her own additions to the diary to clarify situations as she sees it, but the story is mainly Jack’s.
‘For Laura’s spirits were a kite to which I held the string – most of the time she flew above me, lifting me with her, but every now & then she’d drop to the floor and then I’d rush to detangle any crossed strings, and run and grab and jump until she was up in the air again.’
As their marriage comes under strain and the cracks become more visible, the emotion in Jack’s words jump off the page. He becomes increasingly paranoid of Laura’s behaviour, creating doubt where there was none needed, driving Laura further away.
‘I wanted to be right, even if it would crush me. Neurosis, Freud said, is an inability to tolerate ambiguity. I wanted to be free to release the anger and the sadness that had pent up in my head’
What We Didn’t Say is a novel that evokes all kinds of emotions. One minute I felt anger toward Jack and Laura, next minute I was sad. It’s a novel that perfectly describes how things can go so wrong in a marriage when neither side is completely honest with the other. The unspoken is the detriment of many a marriage and Jack and Laura are no different. Throughout the diary, each gets a much better understanding of the other’s emotions and feelings, emotions that were never properly expressed throughout their marriage.
‘My mind was clouded with a sick feeling of regret, a hangover of the soul’
Rory Dunlop has a beautiful way with words. His style of writing is quite poetic and visual. Through his words I could really feel Jack’s pain flowing through his many descriptions.
What We Didn’t Say is a touching, emotive, sweet novel about marriage and regret. It is a story of a couple who tried, failed and tried again to succeed in a marriage that struggled to survive.
It is a book that anyone in or out of a relationship needs to read to learn, if nothing else the importance of communication.
I hope you like it and I would love to hear what you think.
Meet Rory Dunlop:
Rory Dunlop studied Classics and Philosophy at Oxford and worked as a teacher and journalist before being called to the Bar.
He spent a year in Strasbourg, writing judgments for the European Court of Human Rights, failing to learn French and falling in love with Lika.
They now have two daughters and live in London.
He’s written a text book on immigration law and several book reviews for the Spectator and, very occasionally, people read his tweets. @roryjamesdunlop