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The City Of Invention

The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney

All The Hopeful Lovers - Variations On A Theme

All The Hopeful Lovers - William Nicholson

Enjoyable and emotionally satisfying, All The Hopeful Lovers is a set of variations on an age-old theme. A large cast of inter-connected characters struggle with their emotional lives and find themselves caught between twin poles of idealism and compromise.


Young, old and middle-aged, they weave in and out of each other's lives, some impeded by selfishness, others by honesty; some gifted with good-looks, others with sensitivity, some borne aloft on confidence, others crippled by self-consciousness, all in search of love.


It's a challenging narrative structure - so many plot-lines, so many different solutions to the same essential problems. What carries the novel forward is the acute observation of human nature and the authenticity of the characters. These feel like real people, their weaknesses and strengths are familiar to us all.


Nicholson is always looking for the truth about the individual under the chaos of impulse and he finds that truth in the small details. As one of his characters, an elderly artist whose portraits have long ceased to be fashionable,  observes, "You paint what you see and what you feel. I can see you but I can't feel what you feel, I can only feel what I feel. So I latch on to the little clues I get from your face that take me to my own feelings."