In Second World War Bath, young, naïve wireless engineer Will meets German refugee Elsa Klein: she is sophisticated, witty and wordly, and at last his life seems to make sense . . . until, soon after, the newly married couple’s home is bombed, and Will awakes from the wreckage to find himself alone.
No one has heard of Elsa Klein. They say he was never married.
Seventy years later, Laura is a social worker battling her way out of depression and off medication. Her new case is a strange, isolated old man whose house hasn’t changed since the war. A man who insists his wife vanished many, many years before. Everyone thinks he’s suffering dementia. But Laura begins to suspect otherwise…
Sweet, charming and gripping: The Frequency of Us is another brilliant novel from the author of A Boy Made of Blocks and Days of Wonder, both novels I hugely enjoyed.
The main character Laura, who is currently working as a care worker, has been assigned an elderly gentleman living on his own in Bath to assess and see if he can stay in his home despite showing signs of dementia. Laura had her fair share of problems and difficult times herself, but getting through to Will, the man to whom she is assigned, is certainly not an easy task.
We soon find out that the house Will is living in has plenty of memories which may mean his head is still stuck in the past. We wonder if the Elsa he speaks about is actually real, or a figment of his damaged memory?
Alongside the present day narrative, we are taken back to 1942, during the Second World War, as we see Will as a young man and his sweetheart Elsa. What follows is a poignant and heartbreaking story. Switching between the two timeframes allows us to find out much more about Will, and I love books that have dual timeframes in them – this is no exception! For me it adds an extra layer of richness to the story.
Laura is a likeable and interesting character. She has her own problems and feels realistic and well-rounded as a person. I think author Keith Stuart shows the effects of ill mental health in an honest, frank and fresh way because although we see how it has affected Laura, she is still not defined by this.
There are mysterious elements that feel like they can’t be happening but we’re never sure if it’s the effect of Laura’s state of mind or something else. I don’t want to give too much away but I found the two storylines captivating in their own ways and would have happily read a lot more.
Many thanks to Little Brown UK for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest review.