Review: 'After I Left You' by Alison Mercer (2014)
Anna has not been back to Oxford since her last summer at university, seventeen years ago. She tries not to think about her time there, or the tightly knit group of friends she once thought would be hers forever. She has almost forgotten the fierce sting of betrayal, the heartache, the secret she carries around with her, the last night she spent with them all.
Then a chance meeting on a rainy day in London brings her past tumbling back into her present, and Anna is faced with remembering the events of that summer and the people she left behind. As Anna realises that the events of their past have shaped the people they've all become, hope begins to blossom for what the future could hold...
I straightaway fell in love with the cover of Alison Mercer's novel 'After I Left You' as soon as I saw it. It's simple but stunning and makes me long for one of those lovely Spring days when you're walking in the sunshine and don't seem to have a care in the world. 'After I Left You' was released by Transworld on the 31st of July 2014 and I was lucky enough to receive a review copy of the book. I wasn't familiar with Alison Mercer's work and was curious to check out this new author; based on the cover alone I already had my fingers crossed for a hopefully enjoyable read!
It has been nearly seventeen years since Anna graduated from Oxford University and left her life as a student behind quite suddenly. Since her graduation, she hasn't seen anyone belonging to the close group of friends she was a part of during her university years and Anna personally believes that's probably for the best, after everything that happened. However, when she unexpectedly bumps into her old boyfriend Victor, it becomes almost impossible for Anna to ignore her past and the people who played such important parts in it. Before she knows it, she's drawn back to past places and past faces, and Anna knows she will have to finally face what she tried so hard to leave behind all those years ago...
In this novel, the reader gets the chance to see two different versions of the story's main character, Anna: Anna the student and Anna the grown-up. The novel is written in several parts which encompass the present day and Anna's time at university with her friends. I was really impressed by Alison Mercer's writing skills, because she really managed to convey two different Anna's and it was really fascinating to see the changes between the two, to see what certain events can do to people and how it can have an effect on them for the rest of their lives. Next to that, there was also another feeling clearly present in the book; the feeling of having close friends who mean the world to you and whom your entire world revolves around, and then the somehow unavoidable process of life suddenly taking over and losing these friends. Alison Mercer managed to capture these feelings perfectly and it's obvious she's quite the talented storyteller.
I personally loved the setting of the novel. Oxford University is one of those historical and magical places which I can't get enough of and it really added something special to the story for me. There's also a great mix of characters at the core of the book. Anna and her university friends Victor, Clarissa, Meg, Keith and Barnaby are all different individuals and it was really fascinating to learn more about all of them. I do have to admit I thought the book as a whole was quite dark, perhaps a bit too dark for my personal liking, but I can definitely imagine fans of Lisa Jewell's latest novels really enjoying this. 'After I Left You' is a raw, intriguing and well-written read; a convincing tale about love, friendship, secrets and betrayal.