I knew her latest, Spirited was a little different and, as it combines a couple of elements I usually avoid—historical fiction and the supernatural—I was a tad nervous. And though it’s set in the 1850s its themes resonate today. Cohen’s books are often hard to describe but I saw this from a fellow author on Twitter and it seemed apt.
I requested Louis and Louise based on my enjoyment of Together (a life story told in reverse) but wasn’t sure what to expect from the backcover blurb.
In 2003, just over two years after his heart transplant my father caught a bus from his regional hometown to Brisbane for some tests with a neurologist. I picked him up and took him to the hospital, waited while he was in with the specialist and then took him back to the bus.
I’m not sure what happened while he was in being ‘tested’ but he came out devastated. Deflated. He talked about some of the memory tests he’d been given and couldn’t believe he’d struggled with them. Interestingly it was years before his official diagnosis of vascular dementia but perhaps we were fortunate it took a while to invade his mind and his memories.
Eighty-year old Robbie Brandon, the lead character of Julie Cohen’s Together, seems to have suffered a far quicker decline. But it takes us the whole book to understand why its full impact would be even more devastating for him, his beloved Emily and their family.