When I Knew You

When I Knew You - K.E. Payne It's very easy to decide whether this book is for you or not. If you love angst--intense, overpowering and maddeningly drawn-out angst--then you are in for one of the most heart-squeezing, chest-aching rides of your life. Of course, you'll also need the patience of Job to enjoy it. :)

I was piqued by the book's rather unusual premise. Two former and long-estranged lovers Ash and Nat, meet up once again after not seeing each other for 16 years...at the funeral of their mutual best friend Livvy. Livvy left each of them a series of her last 'wishes'--basically a bucket list of things that they had at one time, planned to do when the three of them were still in their teens and virtually inseparable. To honor her wishes, Ash and Nat are to accomplish the tasks set forth in the bucket list with Livvy's teenage daughter Chloe.

But Ash and Nat aren't just any old pair of ex-lovers. Their breakup or more accurately, Nat's breakup with Ash had been one of the most devastating I've ever read in lesfic. It completely shattered all of Ash's dreams, while Nat has seemingly gone on to become a very successful doctor with a lengthy trail of letters after her name. Just imagine the extreme unresolved emotional baggage that these two have been carrying around for the past 16 years (anger for Ash and guilt for Nat), and you can just imagine how much angst-lovers are in for a treat. :) Now that Livvy has posthumously guilt-tripped the two into chaperoning Chloe around London and rural Cornwall, they have no choice but to face their old demons and we readers are in for the ultimate angst-trip of our lives.

At this point I'm pretty sure I've either sold you on the book or repelled you completely. So the rest of my review won't really matter anymore except for people who've actually read the book. So it all goes under the I might have let loose once in another review that 'there can never be too much angst in a book'. I think I'm gonna take that back, lol. This book is proof-positive that even extreme angst-lovers like me have their limits. Oh, it was so much fun in the early going. I was like a kid in a candy shop wallowing in angst-filled goodies. The premise was pure angst (Nat's awful betrayal of Ash). The plot devices to bring them together (Livvy's death) and force them together again and again to resolve their issues (Livvy's 8 wishes) are ingenious. But these two ladies seem to be permanently stuck in a state of adolescence. It was perfectly understandable for a while given the gravity of the Nat's offense, and I patiently sat through trope after trope. I loved all the tension, the tentativeness, the apprehension and basically all the crazy emotions radiating from both of them whenever they're within sight or reach of each other. But somewhere around 75% into the book--the point where Ash practically begs Nat to stay with her in the cottage after she hurt her shoulder--and Nat just ups and leaves, even though Nat just spent almost the entire book trying to get Ash back--that pretty much maxed out my angst-meter. I wanted to slap Nat in the head then. Of course Ash gets her turn a few pages later to be a pain in the... You'll only understand my frustration if you've actually read the book. Both ladies go back and forth like...I've lost count how many times. One of them (mostly Nat) will take a step forward, the other (mostly Ash) would resist with all kinds of excuses. Then it will be the other way around. And round and round and over again. Most of it just happens in their head, by the way. Meaning, they're just "assuming" things. And you know what, all of that angst could have been avoided, or minimized, if Livvy had the good sense to put what she wrote in the final letter in the first letter instead? Better yet, she could have told Ash at any time before when she was still alive and maybe the two of them wouldn't have to go through so much heartbreak. But why spoil all the fun, right?

4.4 stars

ARC from Netgalley / BSB