Imagine being engrossed in a spellbinding love story and falling in love with the characters, but instead of the book ending and you feeling adrift, you have the chance step back into that same story again – but from another character’s perspective.
Such is the case with Theo, the second of a pair of books from bestselling British author Amanda Prowse. Last month we reviewed the heartbreaking and moving Anna [Link to the Anna review here]. The follow-up, Theo, isn’t a sequel so much, as the other side of the story, written from the perspective of Theo.
Like Anna’s story, the novel begins with Theo’s early years. The young Theo may have been born into a wealthy family in an upmarket London suburb, vastly different to the poverty in which Anna grew up, but his upbringing is far from classy in other respects. Theo is carted off to boarding school. It’s the same one his wealthy father attended, but where his father is very proud of his alma mater, Vaizey College is pure misery for Theo. The other boys bully him mercilessly and he has no friends, other than the old caretaker who feels sorry for him.
Later, Theo finds some happiness at university with his working class, northern friend, Spud, with whom he shares a flat. But his domineering parents still rule his life and his entrepreneurial father is furious when he switches from engineering to social policy.
After a disastrous fling with an old school crush, Theo stops studying and is forced into his father’s property business in London, a job for which he has no connection or passion.
Only when he meets Anna one day at work do things start to look rosy. In Anna, Theo might have found his soul mate. But although he seems like a man who has everything – looks, money, success – Theo is flawed, deeply scarred by his oppressive, dysfunctional family. Failing to learn from his parent’s mistakes, he doesn’t reveal the truth to Anna about his history, and once they’re committed, it’s too late. Despite their intense love for one another, when Anna longs to start her own family, things start to unravel.
Theo is a moving novel about an imperfect life and the long shadows cast by a poisonous past. A cautionary tale about how we can cede control to the bad stuff that’s happened and fail live up to our potential. Or, how we can own our experiences and learn from them for a very different outcome.
Theo is a moving story, emotional and heartbreaking in parts, but ultimately uplifting with an ending neither too glib or convenient, but one in which it seems that the natural order of things in the universe have been restored and the reader feels well pleased.
The speedy, almost back-to-back publication of two standalone novels presenting two angles to the one story, is an intriguing curve-ball in the world of fiction. Readers who enjoyed Anna will love Theo both for what it reveals and because, as we know, there really always are two sides to every story.
Amanda Prowse is the author of several novels including bestsellers What Have I Done?, Perfect Daughter and My Husband’s Wife. Her books have sold millions of copies worldwide and she is published in dozens of languages. The Daily Mail (UK) has hailed her as ‘Britain’s ‘queen of domestic drama.’