Some Day I’ll Find You by Richard Madeley
Richard Madeley slightly surprised everyone in 2008 when he published his successful memoir Fathers and Sons which explored male familial relationships through the mirror of his own. Despite journalistic roots, it was somewhat unexpected that one of the most successful daytime TV hosts and champion of the Richard & Judy Bookclub could write. Now, matching his wife Judy Finnegan, he has written his first novel – would it pass muster?
I was intrigued to be offered a copy by his publisher – as many moons ago I met him when I was a contestant on the Granada TV quiz show Connections. That was back in 1988; he was on his way up, having made a name for himself on local shows, now breaking into national TV programmes. We had to rehearse our little introductions with him, and I remember having difficulty describing the branch of high-tech electronic materials I worked with in those days. He came up with a (so him) flippant response that neatly sidestepped the issue. Recording loads of the shows each day – it was a daily tea-time quiz show – so there was no time to bond further, although Granada treated us contestants really well. I got to stay overnight in the same Manchester hotel as many Coronation Street actors, and Jonathan Miller breakfasted at an adjacent table! I lost my match on the buzzer on the final question but felt I acquitted myself reasonably, which was a relief as it seemed that all my UK customers had seen it and recognised me. But enough of all this reminiscing – what was his book like?
Some Day I’ll Find You is a story of wartime romance and betrayal. The prologue starts in Nice a few years after the war, where Diana, sitting outside her favourite café, is stunned to hear a voice from her past as a taxi passes.
As it passed her, she saw the silhouette of a man sitting in the back. He was leaning forward and speaking, in English, to the driver.
‘No, not here. I told you – it’s much further up. Keep going all the way to the Hotel Negresco. And get a move on – I’m late enough as it is.’
Diana swayed and gripped the back of her chair. Impossible.
‘Stop!’ she called at last as the taxi reached the top of the square and began to turn on to the Promenade des Anglais. ‘Oh please, stop!’
But the Citroen entered the flow of traffic and disappeared down the long curving road that bordered the sparkling Mediterranean.
‘Madame!’ It was Armand, the patron, solicitous. ‘Do you have a problem?’
‘No, no …’ She sat down again. ‘Everything’s fine, really.’
But she was lying.
Everything was wrong.
Then we flashback to 1938 and war is not yet a certainty. Diana Arnold is on holiday from studying at Girton, Cambridge. Her brother John is at RAF officer training school, and has made friends with James Blackwell, an East-ender and chancer who shouldn’t really be there, but has wangled his way in. James is penniless, so when they get leave, John invites him to join the Arnold family at home in Kent.
The Arnolds are well off, Mr Arnold being a successful libel lawyer. Diana is a confident and beautiful young woman, and James immediately sees an opportunity to become set-up for life and he starts to woo her and her family. We get a hint of how callous James is underneath when he drops the hairdresser he’d been seeing with no explanation.
The Arnolds fall for him, and he spins Diana sob-stories about his past, and she falls for him too and they get engaged. War intervenes and the boys are called into action. James and Diana decide to get married as soon as they can, and test out their conjugal bliss. Diana’s father is wary of their marriage, but her mother Gwen reminds him that they did exactly the same during WWI, and Oliver survived the trenches. Two days of leave give them the window to get married, but after the ceremony with Diana still in her wedding dress, John and James are immediately recalled to take to the skies in their spitfires – neither will return. Diana is widowed, and left pregnant with their child.
She remarries to a rich, older man, who is happy to bring up her daughter, and they relocate to the Côte d’Azur, which is where her troubles begin again, when she hears that voice …
I must admit that I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It was undemanding, but the plot had enough drama and the main characters were strong enough to keep me entertained. Diana, a strong-willed Daddy’s girl, could be rather petulant, and you did wonder whether she’d be able to change James, well for a short while anyway, but she has reserves of stiff upper lip that take over from the wild romance. You hope that she will be the making of James, but that would be rather boring, and when his true character starts to show it adds to the drama considerably – we need him to be a cad and bounder.
Madeley’s text is unflashy, and flows smoothly. I couldn’t help but imagine him narrating the book in my head, as the writing did feel like him reading a book out loud, if you get what I mean. He definitely has a voice in his writing; it will be interesting to see how his style develops in any future novels as it felt a little too like him in parts in this one.
This was an excellent, light holiday read, and with the twin settings of wartime Kent, and 1950s Nice, I can easily imagine a two-part drama on the tellybox. (7.5/10)
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Source: Publisher – Thank you. To explore further on Amazon UK, please click below:
Some Day I’ll Find You by Richard Madeley, Simon & Schuster paperback (2013)
Fathers and Sonsby Richard Madeley