Five Years from Now by Paige Toon

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Reviewed by Ian Lipke

Paige Toon has taken an old idea, dressed it in a new costume, and provided readers of romantic fiction with a well told story whose characters are likable, settings beautiful and a plot that hangs together to the very end. The lead character Nell opens the story with a scene where her son Luke is suffering from injuring himself in a surfing accident. She tells him of a saying viz that ‘five years from now’ things will have changed their relative importance.

The story then takes us back to a time when she was five and had a friend called Vian. We follow her life through a terrible accident that forces Nell and Vian apart. Five years later another aspect of the story unfolds and the relationship between Nell and Vian opens another phase. Five years later there is another unfolding where the main characters have the opportunity of facing their future. Each five year period is given recognition by something of major importance occurring.

This has been described as a strong, beautiful, and bittersweet book. I certainly agree. It’s more than a romance, even though here are scenes showing a couple caught up in desire or love. The astute reader will be aware of the author controlling the flow of events. Paige Toon is a great orchestrator, that’s very noticeable.

If we take a step back – go and mow the lawn or something – the story will move around inside your brain, and you’ll come up with the fact that all of the characters in his story are very nice people. Nell’s mother seems to be the only ‘dippy’ one there, but she is so marginalised that she does not influence others in the story. However Nell and her girl-friends never try to score points off, or take advantage of, each other. Van has a number of male companions who skylark about but never do anything life-threatening or malicious. Nell’s father is perfectly believable and ever conscious of the responsibility he bears for the welfare of his daughter.

I loved the interrelationships that develop among the characters. Nell and her father are in a loving relationship from the time she is very little. As she grows older the bond between father and daughter remains strong but changes in character as one would expect. You don’t love your teenage daughter in the same way when she’s a teenager as you did when she was a baby, but you do love her as much, and this is what I’m seeing in Paige Toon’s book. As one would expect, Nell caught in the throes of passion as she is about to have sex with Van is a heart-stopping moment but does not alter our perspective on all parties involved in his incident, and it does not change the tenor of the story.

Finally, the story is set in Cornwall where surfing is common and in central Australia, two places where the atmosphere is never stultifying but vivid and inspirational, as is the writing. I was impressed in this, one of my infrequent excursions into light romance.

Keep them coming, Paige.

Five Years from Now

(2018)

By Paige Toon

Penguin

ISBN: 978-0-14-379188-1

351pp; $29.99

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