Former classmates Edward and Marianne, now fifty-five, have experienced a turbulent few years having lost contact with each other and suffered painful disruption to their home lives. Reunited again, this time through Twitter, they set about a search for personal fulfilment, but once again there are obstacles in the way – not least in the form of twice-widowed Jessica, Edward’s neighbour, who threatens to destroy their pursuit of happiness and whose behaviour has alarming consequences. The extraordinary weather conditions prompt Edward and a former colleague to resurrect an idea for a documentary series that sets to challenge consumerist lifestyles. The Isles of Scilly become a model for sustainability and a filming trip to the islands provides an idyllic backdrop to the unfolding romantic tensions. Set in 2012, the year of the London Olympics, the action alternates between Broadclyst and Beckenham and examines the difficult issues faced in committing to a new relationship in midlife. Could being alone be a preferable alternative? Continuing themes of psychology, relationships and environmental sustainability, The Alone Alternative is the sequel to A Meeting of a Different Kind and the third and final part of the ‘Lydia’ series. Written from both male and female perspectives, it also stands alone as a fascinating read for both men and women who enjoy thought-provoking fiction, keeping readers guessing until the very end.
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Although each novel can be read as a stand-alone, I would suggest starting with Meeting Lydia as I have become invested emotionally with the characters through each stage – especially Marianne!
As the title suggests, for different reasons, Edward and Marianne find themselves without their partners. I felt Marianne’s pain in my bones and Edward, well Edward follows through with his academia type personality and although he isn’t totally alone as daughter Harriet is still with him, he is stunned. His closest widowed neighbour Jessica (and a friend of Felicity’s) takes an interest in him. Edward, naïve and not one for confrontations, doesn’t see the possibility of what may happen. One particular conflict had me in tears.
Edward and Marianne had lost contact. Through the use of social media they slowly re-build their friendship. Mari is so very vulnerable and insecure.
One song played on repeat in my mind that I think is relevant:
With Marianne on the verge or retiring, she becomes involved in Edward’s sustainability project that has been revived. Once again, it is obvious that MacDonald knows her topic about ecology and economy. Some emotional scenes are played out on the Isles of Scilly where filming takes place …
MacDonald tackles another social issue in The Alone Alternative and uses the AS level students in Mari’s psychology class to ‘show the reader’. I love how she uses this in connection to the incidents.
Ironically, Taryn has a role assigned to her in the story that surprised me but I have to say I loved this!
Mari is true to form with her over-analysing although we do see a change and see her becoming more relaxed and accepting of situations.
How does it end? You’ll have to read it to find out …
The Alone Alternative for me is about two people in their mid-50’s who have to make changes in their lives due to circumstances beyond their control. It’s about the vulnerability and insecurity of how and when to make those changes needed … dealing with thoughts and emotions on how, at this stage in your life, you can still make a contribution to the world, to your own personal sphere AND be effective. MacDonald portrays all of these emotions with realism and sincerity. I shall miss Mari!
I would like to thank the author for organising a proof copy in exchange for an honest review.