Unreal expectations and broken promises – Book review for NetGalley – A New England Afair by Steven Carroll

cover118887-medium A New England Affair (Eliot Quartet #3)

The latest, immensely moving novel of lost love and missed moments from Steven Carroll, one of Australia’s greatest writers, multi-award winner of the Miles Franklin Award, the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Prime Minister’s Literary Award

Why do some nights feel as though they were always waiting to happen? Or have already happened and will again? And why don’t we know it then? Why is it only afterwards we say, yes, that was when my life turned?

1965. The great poet, TS Eliot, is dead. Hearing the news, the seventy-two year old Emily Hale points her Ford Roadster towards the port of Gloucester, where a fishing boat will take her out to sea, near the low, treacherous rocks called the Dry Salvages, just off Cape Ann, Massachusetts. Over the course of that day, clutching a satchel of letters, Emily Hale slips between past and present, reliving her life with Eliot – starting with that night in 1913, the moment when her life turned, when the young Tom Eliot and Emily Hale fell deeply in love with each other. But Tom moved to London to fulfil his destiny as the famous poet ‘TS Eliot’, and Emily went on to become his muse – the silent figure behind some of the greatest poetry of the 20th century – his friend and his confidante. But never did she become his lover or his wife.

From Steven Carroll, one of our most brilliant, award-winning authors, A New England Affair is the third novel in his acclaimed Eliot Quartet, a companion novel to The Lost Life and A World of Other People. It is a deeply moving, intense and poignant novel of a love that never finds the right moment, and so becomes the ghost of what could have been, of what never quite was, and never quite will be.


Book review in one sentence? – I cried my eyes out all through the book.

Why? I guess, this book hit too close to home. I know all about unreal expectations, broken promises, waiting, hoping, imagining, planning. I know very well what it is like to watch the life go by while you are waiting for something to happen, for him to make a decision, to make a step…

I read this book not as a literary critic or scholar in literature or even somebody who knows TS Eliot works. I do not. I do not know TS Eliot works. I hardly ever read poetry, let alone poetry in English. I read this book as a woman. I read this book as someone who has been in a similar situation. I have been Emily to my Tom. I have been waiting. Moreover, I have been left waiting and hoping ONLY BECAUSE I’VE DECIDED SO. It was only my doing and noone else…. I have been Emily.

Back to book review. I believe this book will cause a stir in Eliot-scholar community. It will call for answers (in waiting for Emily Hale’s archives to be opened). Also, I believe this book needs to be read together with all the others in the QUARTET.

However, if you are reading this book and this book only, please be kind. Be kind to Emily and even kinder to Tom. This book is their story that climaxed on 31st June 1939.

No, I did not make a mistake. 31st June 1939 is the date Emily wrote in her diary. It is the day. It is THE DAY. Afterwards, everything went down. After this date, everything unfolded and unraveled. After this date, A New England Affair stepped from the world of imagination, hopes and wishes into the real world of broken promisses, rejected love confessions and marriages to other people.

Emily Hale waited all her life for the ‘right time’. She waited for the moment when her love will become real and when she will become real in Tom’s world. He promised her that. She lived by that promise…

Read this book if you know and love TS Eliot. Read this book if you love ‘literary love stories’. But most importantly, read this book if you are Emilies and Toms of this world…

Watch and learn…

P.S. This book is not a light read. It is not a train-ride read as well. This book is a project on it’s own. You will need time, a quiet place and a quiet mind to read this book. Give it it’s due. It will be worth it.

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