Bridging literary and women’s fiction, Forty One is a sophisticated, multi-layered contemporary novel that invites reflection and discussion. With a compelling character-driven story exploring issues such as relationships, economic class, identity, religion and sex, Forty One is both thought-provoking and emotionally charged, perfect for book groups. Readers with an interest in literature and philosophy will also find a tantalising intellectual side – hidden meta-fiction and subtext built on word play – but the book’s sharp attention to language and beautiful writing will appeal to all.
Eva Holden is stuck, middle age a series of the same endless tasks; she’s wondering where life’s going and what it’s all about. Although she agreed to the ‘Plan’ -- her husband Harry working abroad for a year to secure financial security – she feels abandoned at home with the children and unsure the bargain is worth it. Even if the Holdens are able to stick to the Plan as the financial world teeters on collapse, Eva’s worried the premise might be wrong, the idea itself absurd: a Polish wife and mother fighting for family life in England, while the English lawyer, head of household, counts his days in Poland. Wasn’t the point of marriage building a life together? Do they need the money anyway? How much is enough? When Eva’s ex-lover Xavier appears on the scene, he presents an all too easy escape. Eva wrestles with her conscience and emotional debts and doubts, but still she’s drawn in. When the Holdens head to Poland at Christmas, Eva encounters another ex and more past problems, unleashing a chain of dramatic events. Back in England, Eva realises that neither abstract strategies nor words can save her.
Trusted mantras, advice from family and friends, even the supposed wisdom of philosophy and religion, are only guidance. In making peace with herself and her muddled history, Eva must confront bigger obstacles and a tougher test of character: illness, death, and in the end, a new life, which requires even greater changes for her, Harry and the children.