The Paper Lovers By Gerard Woodward – A Review

Publisher: Picador

I’d had this book on my shelf for a few weeks. It had been a surprise birthday present from my husband and by ‘surprise’ I mean I jotted down an extensive list of books I wanted and he chose a few, of which this was one.

This was my very first ‘buddy read’ with the smashingly lovely Dave over at Wilde Reads (if you’re not subscribed to his channel or following him on the socials then you really need to have a word with yourself). We had very similar thoughts (thank god! I didn’t want to have to resort to fisticuffs!).

So what’s it all about Mand? Stop your waffling woman!

Well….The Paper Lovers tells the story of Arnold, his wife Polly, their handmade bespoke paper business and publishing press. When Arnold comes home one evening to find his wife and daughter setting up a sewing machine with the assistance of the enigmatic Vera, Polly’s friend, he becomes entranced by her and begins to engineer ways to bump into her. With their daughters being close friends this is made easier with school drop offs and pick ups.

They start talking and growing closer and inevitably ‘one thing leads to another’ as they say.

Their affair, at least for Vera is based around sex. For Arnold it runs a little deeper and he’s keen to learn more about Vera and her life. One area that he’s not so keen on is her spiritual and religious life.

A churchgoer and staunch believer, Vera seems to Arnold to be a bit of an anomaly, going against the bible and indulging in an extra marital affair. As Arnold and Vera struggle with their morals and grasp of right and wrong their relationship takes a twist.

Right from the outset I just gelled with this book. Particular the writing style. Some of the imagery is wonderful. When teabags in a mug were said to be ‘puffed up with air, like the anoraks of drowned train spotters’ I knew I was in for a good reading experience.

Even though you know from the start that there’s an affair between Arnold and Vera, the build up to them crossing over the line is filled with anticipation. When the moment finally came I was a little taken by surprise and I loved that. I didn’t find it predictable at all.

I found the sex scenes themselves were not at all gratuitous, and I revelled in the fact that it was ‘real’ sex. The clashing of Vera’s glasses against Arnold’s eyebrow, fumbly, clumsy and just totally believable and relatable.

This was also the case with the depiction of Vera as a character. She is described as a not typically beautiful woman. A ‘normal’ woman who Arnold finds his own beauty in. I loved this. In stories depicting affairs it can quite often go down the predictable route of a younger, more beautiful, more sexy woman and the fact that Vera was a mother, wife, and not described as some bombshell, it made the affair entirely believable.

The last quarter or so of the book is told from the perspective of Arnold’s wife Polly. When I realised this I was at first a little disappointed. I was invested in Arnold and his voice and wanted to stay in his head. However, I soon realised that picking up the story from Polly’s point of view added a certain element of mystery to the story. I can’t elaborate more than that without giving away a plot point but having the story concluded by Polly and not hearing from Arnold again meant I was left with unanswered questions. But I enjoy this! I like to be left pondering…..

The reading of this book was effortless as I was that absorbed. I felt fully invested in the characters and the whole down to earth nature of the story telling. When I first heard there was a religious element I must admit I was a little apprehensive as theology and religion are not my bag. However, there are very little ‘heavy’ religious overtones, which I was thankful of!

All in all I found this a very enjoyable read and a fantastic first buddy read.

I gave it a solid 4 stars on Goodreads and now after a week or so of reflection after finishing it, I think this is a fair rating.

Get your hands on it (oh and look out for Dave’s thoughts on his channel soon).

See you soon.

Bookish Chat xx

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