Wednesday 11 February 2015

Book review : Forever Lasts Till Dawn - Monty Silverstone

Forever Lasts Till Dawn is a bit of a mixed bag - part historical fiction, part family saga, even part half-hearted erotic literature. It is written by Monty Silverstone, a well-known American actor, author and drama coach who just happens to be the father of Clueless star Alicia Silverstone. It is also, according to the dedication at the front of the book, at least in part inspired by the author's own family history.

The book begins in 1940's London during the Blitz, before rewinding several decades to trace the beginnings of the family's dramatic history in the Ukraine at the turn of the century. Two poor neighbouring families send their teenaged daughters, Aleca and Sarah, off to London, to improve their prospects and also escape the horrors of the anti-Jewish pogroms. This is a part of world history that I had only the vaguest notions of, so it was interesting to learn more about life at the time of the Russian revolution.

From then on, the story becomes a bit predictable - the proverbial streets of London are paved with gold and, sure enough, the girls find fame and fortune, albeit in totally different ways, in their new home. Their love-lives aren't quite as smooth, with various lovers and husbands appearing throughout the story, resulting in children whose lives are also documented. The girls don't turn their back on their Russian roots though, and the plight of their family in the Ukraine adds a contrasting subplot to the girls' story of finding wealth and happiness.

There were, however, several things that bugged me all the way through the book. At times, the writing seems almost childlike, with no attempt to add emotional build-up, drama or suspense. For example, when fairly important characters are involved in accidents and end up in hospital, they are likely to be dead within a couple of paragraphs. This almost childlike style continues in the descriptions of famous monuments, which sometimes sound like something out of a school textbook - one of the characters walks past "Number Ten Downing Street, the home of the Prime Minister", which surely doesn't need pointing out (although it is presumably targetting a US audience - even so, I'm sure they could have worked it out for themselves!). Other geographical details are just totally wrong - after taking a ferry from Dover to Calais, the couple return via Bordeaux, which is nonsensical (maybe he meant Boulogne?) and other famous French placenames are spelt wrong. The frequent brief references to historical events that have no relation to the story - the Titanic and the Suffragettes, for example - seem like further clumsy and rather patronising attempts to educate the reader. There is a surprising amount of sex in the book for a novel set in Victorian England (there is even a warning at the start of the book) - I don't have a problem with that but much of it was gratuitous and the constantly repeated euphemisms, such as "soft peach", "honeypot" and "her hard piece at the top", eventually had me rolling my eyes because they make it sound more like a farcical pastiche of a badly written piece of erotic fiction. One thing that totally raised my hackles was a scene at the start of the book where a wealthy neighbour takes advantage of the young and naive Aleca. It is described as rape and, later in the book, is termed as sexual assault, but she seems to take pleasure from it and not be at all traumatised by the event, with the only thought popping into her head being "oh, I'm not a virgin any more". When she comes across the same man many years later, she decides to get revenge by totally leading him on then refusing to have sex with him. I'm not a feminist but I thought this was a completely inappropriate way of dealing with the issue of rape.

If you can put all that to one side, it's an enjoyable enough read, with some interesting twists and historical references. I'd have liked more depth - some of the characters are a bit one-dimensional - but if you want a light, easy read to dip into, it will fit the bill. If you do read it, I suggest turning back to the first chapter after you've finished because it gives you lots of details about what becomes of the characters that you have got to know through the later chapters. At all costs, avoid the totally pointless "story summary" at the start of the book or you will know exactly what will be happening in the book before you even turn to the first page !

star rating : 3/5

  • Paperback: 390 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (July 15, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1493654519
  • ISBN-13: 978-1493654512

Disclosure : I received the book for free in order to write an honest review.

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