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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Who's Ready for a Romantic Comedy?

One Apple Tasted
Josa Young
Genre: Romantic comedy
ISBN-13: 978-1904027713
***** five star

Reviewed by Amanda Craig for Amazon UK, Top 100 Reviewer

One Apple Tasted is by far the best-written new romantic comedy I've read this year, and I'm amazed it didn't find a more mainstream publisher.

Beginning with the adventures of Dora in the early 1980s (a period so well rendered you can almost smaell the Opium - or, in this social circle, the Floris Rose Geranium)it moves back in time to the 1950s and the 1930s, linking three generations of women in love. Dora, the second last virgin in Britain besides Lady Diana, a bright, [pretty Cambridge graduate, works on a magazine called Modern Woman (a thinly disguised version of Vogue)and is mad for the handsome, enigmatic, and it turns out depressive son of a rich man. Their mutual attraction involves much fumbling and tumbling but no actual sex, and it's something of a surprise when he proposes to her. You have to remember just how weirdly fashionable weddings were (even before Richard Curtis)to make sense of it, but they do, secretly, get married.

The story then cuts back to the start of the War, when two women meet each other in a Harley St obstetrician's. One is barely out of childhood herself, a French Jewish refugee, the other a middle aged Home Counties wife and mother. A rapport is struck, and the younger woman comes to stay with the elder. They give birth almost at the same time; opne dies and the other feeds the other's daughter. When they grow up, the refugee's child finds out how hard marrying love and lust can be.

It would be unfair to give away too much of the plot - and, unusually for this kind of novel, there's a lot of it, making it reminiscent of Nancy Mitford as well as Mary Wesley. The posh but poor Dora and her mother Hilly are so alike that they could be the same person - sweet, innocent, sensible and idealistic. They are absolutely charming creations, and needless to say, the men they adore come across as horribly selfish, immature and snobbish (by far the nicest is Dora's father Stephen, and I'd have liked to see more of him). I can't imagine that Dora's future is going to be a bed of roses but then she's too sensible (despite the one absolutely bonkers thing she does) to expect this.

This is very much a novel set in a particular segment of upper middle class life, where men work as art dealers and women dabble in journalism. There's a LOT about clothes, which will no doubt win Young an ardent teen audience. The scenes set in India come close to parody, and weaken the rest even if, again, this is a typical rite of passage. But what it is absolutely marvellous at is capturing the beauty and intensity of being very young and passionate, and not really knowing what to do with yourself.

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