Friday, August 5, 2016

All the Time in the World - Caroline Angell

Angell, Caroline. 2016. All the Time in the World. New York, NY: Henry Holt & Company, a division of MacMillan Publishing. ISBN 978-1627794015. $15.00 USD

Caroline Angell’s debut, All the Time in the World, doesn’t seem like the work of a first time author. The narrative, dialogue, tricky time shifts, and characters are all extremely well done.  I found myself getting lost in this story of family drama, and rooting for the characters.

Charlotte is a twenty-something gifted music composer, who for reasons not at first apparent, finds herself employed as a babysitter for a wealthy couple in New York, Scott and Gretchen McClean. Her two charges, Georgie and Matt, play a large role in the story, and the author does a good job of capturing the temperament and dialogue of these two young boys. (My own sons had the same issues with the letter “L” and hard “C’s” so I was nostalgic when I read some of their conversations- though some readers might be critical of this type of dialogue).

Very shortly after the novel begins, Gretchen McLean is killed in an accident, and Charlotte finds herself stepping into a much more demanding role in the family than she expected.  The novel shifts back and forth in time, before and after the accident, to give us perspective on Charlotte’s life and the reason she hasn’t written any music in several years.  The most poignant scenes in the book are between Charlotte and the family as they try to navigate their new reality without Gretchen, who held the family together.

This is a story that delves deeply into the emotional lives of very real characters that the reader will come to care about. Yet it doesn’t fall into maudlin territory: we are shown love, wisdom, even humor in the midst of their suffering – just like we experience in real life. Ms. Angell handles her debut with a deft hand, and I am hoping we will see more from this author.

Only one criticism: the author includes a couple of fairly explicit sex scenes that don't seem to match the tone of the rest of this family drama.  It doesn't add anything to the narrative, and seems to be not thoughtfully considered in her construction of the plot. Other than that, though, it was a satisfying read.

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