There is no telling what the final destination might be

This is the seventh novel by Lesley Hayes that I have read and reviewed. I enjoyed (and learned a lot from) the other six, and was very confident the seventh would not disappoint. It didn’t.
We first meet her three protagonists in their relatively early teens, when they vow with “all the unspoilt certainty of youth” to be friends forever. Inevitably, their paths diverge when they launch themselves into the world and face significantly different challenges; but they remain as true as they find they can be to their early vow, at least during the years this volume covers. This first volume of an intended trilogy entitled ‘Written in Water’ follows three young women – Cordelia, Rosalind and Beatrice – through the years 1962–1972.
It is meticulously researched, referencing many of the significant social and political events of these years, and is sure to bring back sharp memories for anyone who, like me, lived through those years as a socially conscious young adult. Lesley Hayes is shrewd, kind and perceptive in the portrayal of her characters and I found myself regularly relishing her pithy and often amusing depictions of them. “Rosalind had not so much lost her virginity as hurled it at the first reasonably attractive man who had looked as though he were up to the job.” She had been on “a number of dates where sex had proceeded more from fulfilling her side of an anticipated bargain rather than ignited passion.” For Beatrice, “it was preferable to keep the love she longed for alive in the realm of possibility rather than dead on the scorched earth of denial.” “Katya shrugged. ‘Is determined to stay put,’ she said. ‘Baby is bloody stubborn. Must be a girl.’”
The author’s observations on life in general are always thought-provoking. Beatrice “had already discovered an important lesson, one which would prove useful throughout her life, that lowering one’s expectations eliminated a large proportion of emotional suffering.” “Once a journey of any kind was begun there was no telling what the final destination might be.” “We’re all hiding in case the truth of who we are condemns us to ridicule.” “External beauty fades in time, but with enough attention, inner beauty grows.” “Fascism in one form or another still thrives – even among schoolboys.”
The author’s obvious empathy with her characters makes it easy for her readers to like and to sympathise with them, recognising in their different struggles to find happiness so much with which they can personally identify. How many of us, for example, are like Paddy and dress up our despair as political world-weariness, which isn’t the same thing at all?
“She had the look of someone who knew where she was going even though as yet she had nowhere to go.” This trilogy clearly has worthwhile places to go, and I am looking forward to accompanying it on that journey.

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