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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Following On is an historical romance written by Ray Hobbs. Plum is not exactly sure what role she's expected to play after having agreed to let her 10-year-old granddaughter, Nicola, stay with her for the school holiday. While she knows her son and daughter-in-law want Nicola schooled throughout the holiday to make up for her rather dismal academic performance the last term, Plum wants rather more for the girl, and for herself. First, the traditional titles such as Gran or Granny would have to go; something that Nicola seems quite at ease with. Then there's the not-so-simple matter of getting to know her, but the two of them seem destined to get along famously. Plum also has a new and intriguing mystery at hand. Her great-uncle Hugh had left her his grand piano in his will, but his desk had ended up with her uncle. Now that he had died, Plum had taken the desk off the hands of a desperately grateful cousin. While inspecting it, she found a secret compartment that contained a number of letters through which she and Nicola would travel into the past to get to know Hugh and his wife, Ellen. They were musicians, just as Plum had been before the accident that crippled her arm and killed her husband. But somehow, those letters and the legacy they brought provided a healing place for both granddaughter and grandmother.
Ray Hobbs' historical romance, Following On, is a masterful look at the aftermath of the First World War and the lives of those British soldiers who survived. The author juxtaposes the 1920s life of Hugh Linthwaite and that of his great-niece, Plum Harvey, and I'd be hard pressed to decide which story line impressed me more. Ordinarily, I'd opt for the earlier one, as I've always been interested in the history of the two world wars, but Plum’s, and to a lesser extent, Nicola's, tale was every bit as absorbing as Hugh's was. Following On is a gorgeous story that grabbed my interest from the first few paragraphs and had me hesitant to put the book down until I had, reluctantly, finished the last page. While the intertwined stories take place decades apart, I found there to be no sense of dislocation as the author switched from the 1920s to the present day. They merge into a flawless and flowing work that fits together exactly as it should, and it does so brilliantly. Hobbs paints the lives of Hugh and Ellen, and Plum and Nicola so vividly, and there's nothing to change to make it any better. Following On is compelling and lyrical, and reading it was a profoundly pleasurable experience. It's most highly recommended.