Though some human experiences are undoubtedly stark or sensational, sad or joyous on any scale, it has always been true that any given set of circumstances may be handled by different people in different ways; and that therefore at that level, any person’s ‘reality’ is largely a figment of her or his own imagination. It is also true that the vast majority of ‘ordinary’ people envy the ‘glitterati’ – the rich, talented and famous who seem to “have it all.” In ‘I have Loved These Days’ Bethany Turner has taken this ‘wannabe’ strain in the human psyche and combined it with our species’ peculiar predilection for fantasy by creating a female character who must have diligently researched the lives of a particular set of celebrities widely judged to be among the most ‘attractive’ men on the planet in order to create a fantasy life for herself as a pivotal person in all of their lives.
The result is a well written, almost spookily believable, and at times uncomfortable read about someone presenting herself as a world class skater, Oscar-nominated actress and acclaimed screenplay writer with the ability to fascinate and influence a string of very good-looking, talented and successful men in sport, politics and film. As a male reader I found it an interesting peek at these aspects of the female psyche taken to such extremes, and found myself wondering to what extent female readers identify with Abigail Phelps, albeit it from a far more ‘normal’ position in the continuum.
Bethany Turner is at pains to point out that Abigail is a figment of her own (Abigail’s) imagination, and that in ‘reality’ the life she describes has nothing to do with the lives of the famous people – most of whom are still alive – she has hijacked for her purposes; but the doctor and his occasional interjections did strike me as tokenistic, and I was left with more than a sneaking suspicion that Bethany had indeed loved the days she had spent creating this fictional world for her fictional self.