The book opens with the prologue at the aftermath of Catherine’s funeral. It is a little bit sad but it is a good opportunity for the reader to be introduced to the main characters – Sean, April and Maggie. After everyone has left the wake, Sean, now a widower, is visited by his neighbour and friend, Maggie, just to check on him and also leave him a simply wrapped cardboard box. Sean later opens the box to find that Catherine has left him twenty-nine numbered envelopes, each containing a photograph and a cassette recording of her memories of the time the photograph was taken. The first instructs him to open the envelopes at weekly intervals.
The chapters of the book start with a short description of each photograph of the weekly opened envelopes, and then the verbal contents of the cassette which Catherine recorded during her final weeks in hospital. We go back to the beginning of Catherine and Sean’s relationship when they first met at a fairground and hear from Catherine her first hand impression of meeting Sean. The following chapters give milestone markers of their marriage, the birth of their daughter, April, and various parties and workplace memories – some of which even Sean had forgotten about.
I thought this was a very clever, if not quite unique, way of telling the story of an, at times, troubled marriage through snapshots of memory. Although the premise sounds depressing, it has very uplifting and amusing moments. It is written with emotion and sensitivity and also shows how father and daughter come to terms with the loss of wife and mother in different ways. I am ashamed to say that this is the first book by Nick Alexander I have read, but it won’t be the last.
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