When Olivia Berrington gets the call to tell her that her best friend from college has been killed in a car crash in New York, her life is turned upside down. Her relationship with Sally was an exhilarating roller coaster, until a shocking betrayal drove them apart. But if Sally really had turned her back, why is her little girl named after Olivia?
As questions mount about the fatal accident, Olivia is forced to go back and unravel their tangled history. But as Sally's secrets start to spill out, Olivia's left asking herself if the past is best kept buried.
|Product dimensions:||8.10(w) x 5.50(h) x 1.40(d)|
About the Author
Eleanor Moran is the author of three previous novels: Stick or Twist, Mr Almost Right and Breakfast in Bed, which is currently being developed for television. Eleanor also works as a television drama executive and her TV credits include Rome, MI5, Spooks, Being Human and a biopic of Enid Blyton, Enid, starring Helena Bonham Carter. Eleanor grew up in North London, where she still lives.
Read an Excerpt
Tuesday’s not the kind of day you expect your life to change for ever. That feels like a job for Friday, or Saturday – a flashier, shinier day that has surprise sprinkled over its surface like hundreds and thousands.
This particular Tuesday I’m doing the end of the day soft-shoe shuffle, glancing between the clock, my computer screen and my bat-shit scary boss Mary, trying to work out which will give way first. It’s a huge, retro-looking wall clock, with thick black hands that are currently crawling sluggishly towards six thirty. The wall behind it is papered with pastel pink roses, and the room is peppered with big velvet sofas that are designed to encourage the kind of impromptu brainstorms and shared confidences that never quite seem to happen. Mary presides over the room from her huge glass desk at the top, mistress of all she surveys. It’s like a twisted sort of nursery – soft on the outside, with an underlying air of menace.
I’m working on a campaign for supermarket organics, but even if my computer hasn’t turned off yet, my brain certainly has. I want to get home – I’m cooking dinner for James before I have to go out again – but I don’t want Mary to think I’m a slacker. Better to sit here playing with the same sentence for half an hour than appear half-hearted.
Mungo, my optimistically titled ‘assistant’, has no such compunction. He came in on work experience, bestowed by Mary, his godmother, and never left. Right now he’s already standing up, shoving a musty old hardback into his leather satchel and snapping off his monitor without so much as a backward glance in my direction. I take an unattractively loud slurp of water, but he fails to notice, just as he fails to notice every command or plea I throw his way: good cop doesn’t work, bad cop doesn’t work, the only authority this boy might possibly deign to respect is Martin Amis or Salman Rushdie, fellow Oxford graduates all. He styles himself as some kind of literary giant in waiting, all long scarves and corduroy jackets, with lustrous auburn hair that falls around his face like plush velvet drapes.
"Mungo," I call out. "Before you go, how are you getting on with that research on the level of consumer spending?"
A fleeting look of panic crosses his face, like he’s spotted a herd of elephants stampeding towards him through the long grass, but then he remembers it’s only me.
"It’s all in hand," he says glibly.
"I need an ETA," I snap, before losing heart. "Or at least a rough idea of when I might expect it," I add, lamely.
"Tomorrow, latest," he says, already halfway out of the door, "you have my solemn word."
I suppose it’s not surprising he’s indifferent. He’s stayed on as an intern, unpaid by anyone but the relentlessly generous bank of Mum and Dad, which is pretty much the only way to get into a job like this these days. It’s lucky for me that I started more than a decade ago, as my dad’s ingrained frugality and sense of right and wrong would have afforded me about three days max. I came in as a bright-eyed graduate trainee, as relentlessly keen as Maria taking up residence with the Von Trapps, and, much like her, soon got the corners knocked off me. Up until then, hard work and diligence had got me through. I’d smugly collected my first class degree, then barely broken a sweat when I got my prestigious traineeship. This side of life – the ticking of boxes, the academic achievements – was easy for me; it was the other side, the messy business of other people, that I found so difficult to wrangle.
I soon discovered that achievement in the big wide world was a complicated two-step between the two: 30 per cent inspiration, 70 per cent the ability to sell that inspiration as genius, and pull your genius out of exactly the right make and model of handbag. Luckily Mary saw something in me, didn’t dismiss me as the gauche goody-two-shoes I was, and allowed me to carve out a niche for myself. It’s not a comfy nook, it’s more a thin, precarious shelf, but I know how to keep my balance and, when it’s going well, I love my work. Well, sort of – I definitely like it. I’m incredibly lucky that I get paid to make things up, it’s just that I’m not sure that this is what I’d choose to make up given the choice. My imposter’s handbag currently contains the scratchy beginnings of a short story I’d like to enter for a magazine competition. I don’t know if I’ll ever manage to finish it – I’ve rewritten the opening lines so many times that it’s started to read like Greek.
It’s nearly an hour later, and Mary’s still showing absolutely no sign of leaving, despite the two young children she’s got stowed at home with the nanny. Her perfect nails are tip-tapping a tattoo on her keyboard, her eyes scanning the room at regular intervals. She’s mid-forties at least but you’d never guess it: time hung up his arrows and admitted defeat long ago. Any greys are disguised by discreet, expensive blond highlights and her outfits are so outrageously high fashion that the term "age appropriate" seems laughable.
I look at the picture of a sad-looking pig on my computer screen, oinking out a plea to harassed shoppers to save him from a life lived in a tiny pen, and just for a second he feels like my brother. Mary’s engrossed in a phone call, which seems like the perfect moment to make a run for it. The only other person left is Amy, a junior copywriter a few years younger than me who sits on the desk behind. She’s wearing a T-shirt for some obscure Indie band, her wild torrent of blond hair caught up in something that looks suspiciously like a bulldog clip, her bitten-down nails painted with tiny Union Jacks. It all gives her the kind of effortless Hoxton cool that should make her desperately annoying, but she’s too sweet to dislike. She’s poring over a folder of notes, but she looks up when she spots me shaking the ironic Reykjavik snowstorm that sits on her desk.
"You off? I was going to ask you if you fancied a glass of wine over the road when Mary’s gone."
At roughly midnight, I think, looking at the expression of grim determination on Mary’s face as she stares down her screen, but I don’t depress Amy by pointing it out.
"I’d love to, but I’ve got to go home and then go out."
It sounds stupid when I say it: I should just go straight out, but I need my fix of James to propel me into the night.
"We’ve got to go and have a proper boozy one soon."
"Soon," I promise emphatically, even though neither of us really believe me. I feel a stab of guilt – I like Amy, I really do, but I’m not very good at this stuff. What’s that phrase? Women beware women. I know in my head that it’s not true, but in my heart there’s still a skulking fear that it is.
"Livvy," calls Mary, as I push open the door.
"Yes?" I say, swivelling round. She’s off the phone now, her eyes fixed on me, her expression cold and blank. She pauses for what feels like an eternity: it’s stupid, but my heart starts to race, the handle suddenly clammy to my touch.
"See you tomorrow," she says, bestowing a smile.
Our flat – located to the left of Kennington tube, perched above an electrical shop – is most definitely shabby. Not shabby chic, just shabby, but it’s homely, and to me that’s more important. I also think it’s hard to make a home out of one person, so, whilst it means that I’m fighting my way past James’s squash racket and piles of my dog-eared paperbacks to get to the cooker, I don’t really mind.
The grease-spattered kitchen clock is edging towards 7.55, and there’s still no sign of him. The thing is, whilst he might burst through the door at any second, he might just as well have forgotten what we arranged – got distracted by work, or worse. I try to pretend that I’m cool and unconcerned, stirring the Thai chicken curry that I’ve rustled up and singing along, loudly and tunelessly to the Carpenters, who are blasting out of the tinny transistor radio on the kitchen counter. I don’t even hear him come in.
"Close to you-oo," he harmonises, coming up behind me and snapping it off.
"I was listening to that!"
"I know. I’m saving you from yourself."
He’s towering over me, ruddy and damp from the gym, smelling not of sweat or of aftershave, but of a smell peculiar to him. He’s gingery-blond, with a boyish lankiness that suits the irrepressibility of his personality. He’s bendy and springy and unstoppable, constantly in motion, and yes, before you ask, I’m more than a little bit in love with him. I always have been, ever since he walked into my A-level politics class, his timing impeccable: my parents were in the middle of their gruesome separation and I was ripe for distraction.
James was an army brat, the youngest of three boys, and the family had recently been transported to Northwood, the boring north London suburb we lived in, which was dominated by the naval base. A life spent being uprooted from place after place could go two ways. For James, rather than making him shy and mistrustful, it had given him the cast iron certainty that he could walk into any situation and charm his way to the very heart of it. It wasn’t oiliness or manipulation, it was pure self-belief combined with an innate knowledge that he was attractive.
It was that age and stage where boys and girls first peek over the barricades and try out being "friends" – a funny old version of friendship in which you can snog furiously at a party one night and go back to being mates the very next day. Or at least other people could do that. James and I had one such night at school, an hour spent kissing in the boys’ cloakroom during the first-year Christmas prom – it was brief and clumsy and awkward, and yet I did nothing but daydream about it for months, staring wistfully through my clumsily applied eye make-up and playing "Wuthering Heights" on loop, whilst he remained utterly oblivious. I hoped with every fibre of my being that he’d come back to me, that I’d be able to prove myself second time around, but he’d already moved on, climbed back aboard the romantic merry-go-round and recast me as his long-lost sister. That’s not strictly true, there was one more time but now – now is not the time to think about it. Sally whispers across my consciousness but I push her away. Perhaps it’s the ferocity with which I suppress her which makes hercontinue to surge up, like those schlocky horror films where the hero tries more and more elaborate methods to destroy the invincible slasher.
Reading Group Guide
The Last Time I Saw You
by Eleanor Moran
1. The triangle between Sally, Olivia, and Lola is a power struggle that influences the girls’ sense of self-worth and their relationships with other characters well into their adult lives. Discuss the function and dysfunction of Olivia and Sally’s relationship. How do you think the intense nature of the friendship benefited both characters, and how did it hinder them?
2. In the first few pages of the novel, Olivia, sizing up her young, pretty colleague, thinks to herself:
“What’s that phrase? Women beware women. I know in my head that it’s not true, but in my heart there’s still a skulking fear that it is.” (9)
Female competition—in the workplace, in relationships, in the race to “have it all”—is a constant presence in the novel. Discuss how Olivia compares herself to and competes with other female characters in the book. What do Olivia’s comments and thoughts about other women’s bodies, choices, and behavior reveal about her character, and how women compete with each other?
3. Olivia says about the end of her friendship with Sally, “If I’d only knows then what a precious commodity trust really is—that once it’s broken the scars can take more than a lifetime to heal.” (72)
How does Sally’s breach of trust affect Olivia’s relationships with other characters? If Sally had survived, do you think she and Olivia would have been able to heal the friendship?
4. William and Olivia’s relationship is fraught—and nearly severed—by significant social and emotional obstacles: grief, guilt, ostracizing by friends and family. In the end, though, they commit to each other despite these complications. When Olivia rejects James, after loving him for almost her whole adult life, she says:
“It was what I wanted for so long, and I don’t love you any less, but now . . . it’s not right anymore. It’s not our time,
not for me.” (435)
Is there a right time and a wrong time to find love? Are there circumstances under which Olivia might not have ended up with William, or this relationship would break, or would they have always found a way back to each other?
5. When Olivia does finally choose William over James, she seems to make this choice based on gut emotion in that moment, rather than by making a calculated choice. Why do you think Olivia ultimately chooses William?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings Olivia Berrington has a friend that she hasn't spoken to in years and she finds out at the very beginning of this story that her friend has died and they are unsure if the police's findings of car accident are completely true. She must delve into the past and learn about her friends recent past to find the truth. The format of the book with chapters in the present unfolding the current story and stories from the past to mold your knowledge of their friendship's beginnings was fantastic. I loved learning the ups and downs of their friendship while also learning about how Olivia was going to get to the bottom of it all simultaneously. It made me think about those friends who I talk to often and those from the past and how friends come and go in the seasons of life.
Excellent Summer Read! This is a story that reads almost like a mystery, because Olivia has to piece together the events that happened before the fatal death of her estranged friend, Sally. I enjoyed reading about the relationship between Sally and Olivia (before they became adults), and could certainly relate to having that “crazy friend”-who goes off the edge. Eleanor Moran doesn’t give all the details in order, with the story changing from past to present, which made the book even more fascinating to read! I love a great mystery, wrapped up in a novel that has a little bit of everything: widowhood, survivor’s guilt, infidelity, friendships, lies and betrayal, and a little romance. The reader is given one piece of the puzzle, in random order, as each piece slowly takes shape to reveal the hidden truths that were there the whole time. I loved Madeline and felt her emotions were true to that of a child, who deals with the loss of her parent. She is angry, distant, reluctant, and slowly opens her heart to the possibilities of loving and honoring her mother, while also accepting a new beginning. My heart ached for her, as she struggles to balance her faithfulness to her mom, while also learning to accept someone else in her life. It isn’t until the very end that Moran reveals to the reader and Sally’s family-the reason for Sally’s demise and “crazy behavior”, which came as a shock but then made sense! Eleanor Moran nails the psychological issues Sally faces and the internal struggles she dealt with and the demons that she faced. While there were times that it seemed Olivia was in a trance and did whatever William wanted, it seemed that in some cosmic weird way that Sally wanted things to evolve as they do and that in the end, she could rest in peace knowing those she loved were all together. It’s an excellent read! I read this one quite quickly because I wanted to know what happens! Most of all, I love the style of writing Eleanor Manor has in this book-as it was a puzzle that slowly connects and reveals all the hidden secrets that the characters have. Those who love books about mental illness, family secrets/relationships, and friendships, will certainly love this book!
This book, a story entwining the lives of a very different group of people as a result of a very tragic incident, one woman whose live is the very axis around which the lives of those surrounding Olivia or Liv or Livvy to her friends will be changed forever. All of these people are brought together under the mysterious circumstances surrounding Sally’s death, all woven together in a seemingly forced fashion to assist Sally’s now widower husband, William and their daughter, not only sort through her affects, but the very mystery that is her death and the life she led beforehand. The Last Time I Saw You is the third novel I have personally read as of late that centers around a woman with Bi-Polar Disorder. And, from these I have discovered this mental illness tends to present itself in very different fashion person to person – with one common theme between all three of them, these women tended to latch onto one individual and push all others away. I started this journey with the first one clinging to the one she claimed to love with her whole heart, even though she was incapable of self-love, to the daughter who pushed her adopted family away when she needed them the absolute most, to lastly, Sally who latched onto Livvy like she was a new toy, letting her go when a new shiny toy came along, only to return to Livvy when that relationship fell apart – this pattern continued until her relationship with Livvy became toxic to Liv. This back and forth could have been a symptom of her hidden mental illness. I found reading this narrative to be a tad on the dull and somewhat confusing side – the author bounces the reader between past and present in order to showcase Livvy and Sally’s relationship and how it affects present-day Livvy. All the while we are “hearing” about Livvy’s less than glamorous work life clashing with her would be social life and her long-time yearning for something more than friendship from her best friend/roommate James. The book never really hit its climax, I kept itching for the author to hit that final big arc in the story before the conclusion, but the storyline fizzled out before that big climax came. I had a hard time getting through this short novel and will not be recommending it going forward for the simple fact that while the author attempted to showcase a best friend relationship as the basis for a romance between a widower and a best friend, the reality of the situation I believe would have continued to be a bane on Livvy and William’s relationship with the secrets Sally kept continuing to put pressure on theirs. Two out of Five Stars **I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review**
Languidly passing through her thirties, Livvy Berrington thinks her life is pretty ordinary with a job she hates, a best friend/flatmate she's desperately, one-sidedly smitten with, and absolutely no love prospects—until she receives a call that her former best friend, Sally Atkins, has been killed. Sally's death is at first shocking, then increasingly somber as Livvy reveals—through a series of extended flashbacks that lead up to the explosive cause to the end of the brightly burning friendship—just what kind of relationship the two girls had in college. As Livvy learns to cope with losing her best friend she hasn't spoken to in decades, she becomes entangled in an unexpected, unfathomable relationship that arises from the ashes tragedy. Her grief is intertwined with intense, wild stories from her university years, the years that have caused her so much regret, loss, and heartbreak. While Livvy's reflections of her early twenties are evocative and induce school-age nostalgia, the story itself is banal and way too linear. I found the book unnecessarily wordy at a whopping 504 pages; it contains lots of pointless action and inner dialogue the story could have done without. The lack of structure and actual point to the story made it a bit difficult to read, and the painfully predictable climax and conclusion did nothing to impress me either. Livvy is a fickle character, and although it's easy to sympathize with her, it's also very easy to find her very pathetic. There were just some moments I wanted to take her by the shoulders and shake some sense into her. While her first-person narration is stylistically rather elementary, Livvy does have her moments of beautiful, introspective reflection. The only reason I enjoyed her perspective is because of her contemplative thoughts on human connections and coping. Pros: Easy to read // Reflects on the meaning of friendship // Wonderfully nostalgic // Olivia is a deep, observant thinker Cons: Slowly and irregularly paced // Messy, unmemorable plot // Most characters are insignificant and dislikable (I only really liked Jules, Olivia's sister) // Livvy is a weak character and narrator // Seems to drag on forever Verdict: Eleanor Moran's most recent novel didn't sweep me away, but it was still an enjoyable story about the value of girl friends and the magic of hope-filled youth. I was mostly disappointed that the big mystery enshrouding Sally's "dark" secrets was calculable and unoriginal, but did appreciate how The Last Time I Saw You probingly explores the tendency we humans have for forever remembering those we have once loved. Rating: 6 out of 10 hearts (3 stars): Decent for a first read, but I'm not going back; this book is decidedly average (whatever that means!). Source: Complimentary copy provided by publicist in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, Wunderkind!).
When I read the blurb, I had the idea that this was a romantic suspense with some serious character development which sounded good. Once I got into the story, it wasn't exactly what I imagined, but it wasn't a let-down either. I just had to readjust so I could appreciate the story that I was reading. It turned out to be more chick lit with a light amount of romantic suspense as it was a woman's personal life journey with her former friend's inexplicable death as the catalyst. The story opens with Olivia Berrington, a thirty-something career woman sharing a flat with her male best friend and secret crush, learning that her long ago college best friend has died in a car accident. It's devastating for her because contrary to all that she feels about the past dealings between them, she never got closure on that precious relationship and she feels the loss keenly. She is left as confused as ever when she attends the funeral and learns from Sally's husband that she named her daughter after Livvy and then things are said at the funeral by a few people that make her wonder if Sally's death is as accidental as it seems. The insurance company sure doesn't think so. Livvy's mind goes back over her past with Sally beginning with when they meet, traversing through their mercurial friendship, the affect Sally has on Livvy as Livvy comes of age, and then the final heart-rending end of everything they had. Livvy seems to know Sally better than anyone with the exception of Sally's buttoned-up husband, William, and her anger, hurting daughter, Madeleine who speaks of Sally's secret place. Livvy spends time with William and his daughter and feelings that shouldn't be there start to develop along with the guilt for feeling them. William is so overwhelmed dealing with his grief, Madeleine's grief, the insurance investigation into Sally's death and yet he seems taken with Livvy too. Livvy's life went from being almost mundane to now she's fighting for the right to handle a big project at work, she has sparked some the attention she long craved from James, her friend, but now she has added in all that is going on including her thing with William that center's around Sally. Livvy decides that she must determine what happened to Sally not just for her own sake, but for the others left behind too. This story was told first person from Olivia's perspective and flipped back and forth between the present and the past. This made it a bit choppy, but not too hard to navigate. It wasn't a fast-paced piece nor very flashy really. There is some angst and it really is about her getting to a place where she can finally live and be happy. And yes, this does involve a bit of passion and romance. As to the main character, Olivia is just an ordinary woman who happened to have a friendship in university with a charismatic yet unstable woman and she has carried a lifelong crush on a guy who only sees her as a friend. Her family is there for her including an older sister who is salt of the earth. Her divorced parents and their very different perspectives on life make things interesting. Olivia is pretty much just existing until Sally's death forces her to really take a look at her life. In the midst of the change, she does have some less assertive moments as do the men in her life. I found these personality types an interesting change since I read a lot about alpha heroes and heroines. Her introspection, actions and thoughts were easy and engaging to follow along with as she told the story. I was expecting a bit more thrillerish and suspenseful stuff and the mystery of Sally's death and the situation was easy for me to figure out, but yet I still enjoyed the story just for a different reason. I liked the author's style so I would definitely pick up another of her books. As to whom this is for, chick lit, women's fiction, romantic suspense and contemporary romance lovers would all potentially like this one. My thanks to Quercus and Net Galley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest review.