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Book review of 45 Years, 45 Years by Charles Knightley

45 Years, 45 Years begins with a news report on the reopening of two investigations from 45 years ago. Coming soon after the suspicious suicide of eighteen year old Clive Saunders, Valerie Cummings’ unexplained disappearance rocked the market town of Springford. Forced into an uneasy acceptance of the unresolved crime, how will the community react to new developments involving the unlikeliest local faces? And how will keepers of long-buried secrets react when the past comes back to haunt them?

In frequent flashbacks to the early 1960’s, we witness how events originally transpired. With Clive’s cousin Bob Saunders and Valerie’s brother Joe at the centre of the action, a picture of post-war austerity and discipline is quickly established. Growing up in a time of modest aspirations and old-fashioned values, Bob and Joe explore their burgeoning sexualities. As Bob enthusiastically discovers both girls and career ambitions, Joe seems destined to be forever in his shadow. Clinging all-too-tightly on to his mediocre talent at photography, Joe finds darker ways to express his increasing frustrations.

The reader is quickly gripped by the fork in Bob and Joe’s friendship. In the present-day scenes, Bob is happily married, successful and visiting his home town after a long absence. However, Joe has remained in Springford, having enjoyed predictably insignificant professional success. Bob is initially surprised that Joe is sharing a life with his homosexual partner but, privy to the 1960’s flashbacks, we see events slowly slotting into place as we near the novel’s conclusion.

At times, some of the plot developments seemed to follow an expected format; two men, former best friends who grow widely apart with catastrophic consequences. The addition of a paedophilic Physics teacher, preying on the vulnerabilities of teenage boys adds context to certain character developments but seems at odds with the present-day version of the old teacher and his family. Perhaps this can be attributed to the ‘normalness’ that abusers portray in everyday life but this nuance could have been explored further.

45 Years, 45 Years ends with a satisfying twist, cathartic to characters and readers alike. Regardless of whether or not you predict the twist revealed by Bob in the closing pages, the novel is a worthwhile read. Exploring the follies of youth and their far-reaching effects, Knightley delves into the struggle to unite our pasts with our present.

Review by Keri Wilson

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