Without your past, who are you?
Deborah was a respected hospital manager until a tragedy destroyed her reputation. She has lost her career, her husband and even her name.
Luca wants to stay in the moment. For the first time in his life he has hope and a home. But a fresh start is hard on a zero-hours contract, harder if old voices fill your mind.
When a garden share scheme brings them together, Deborah is beguiled by Luca’s youth and grace. He makes her husband’s garden live again. He helps her when she’s at her lowest. But can she trust him? And when the time comes to confront her past, can she find the strength?
This sharply drawn short novel explores the distance between the generations – between health and wealth, owners and workers, guilt and blame.
Having reviewed Kate Vane's previous book, Not the End, I was delighted when she contacted me again to ask if I'd like to read her new book. The Former Chief Executive may be a short novel but it explores some deep themes and is anything but slight.
Deborah is grieving the loss of her husband, they had made plans for their retirement but his cancer diagnosis meant those plans would never be realised. She's an interesting character, often judgemental, particularly regarding her next-door neighbour, but also of herself. She has a softer side too, she's undoubtedly lonely and has a strained relationship with her daughter but her response to Luca when she discovers his past show a more thoughtful and forgiving facet to her character. The truth about her own past and why she is now a former chief executive is slowly revealed and goes some way to explaining why she is somewhat mistrustful and guarded.
Luca's struggle to build a new life for himself is sensitively told and reflects how difficult it is for some people to make their way in a society that often seems stacked against them. As the two slowly grow to trust one another they both take steps to examine their respective histories but whether they can ever fully leave the past behind them is a different matter, particularly when other people exert their influence on them and exploit their vulnerabilities. The Former Chief Executive looks at grief, duty, forgiveness and regret. It may be short but it's not an easy read, ageing, death and the many failings of our current society are all themes explored within its pages. Without giving anything away the ending really left me thinking, I must admit I was left wanting more but nevertheless the conclusion is a striking, if not necessarily an entirely satisfactory one. This is not meant as a criticism, I don't actually think endings should necessarily satisfy the reader's wishes, as long as they finish memorably, and Kate Vane certainly achieves that here. The Former Chief Executive is a clever and thought-provoking literary read.
Many thanks to the author for my ARC, received in return for my honest review.
The Former Chief Executive will be available on Kindle or paperback on Amazon from 8th June 2017.
Kate Vane is on Twitter as @k8vane and her website can be found here.
About the Author
Kate Vane has published two other novels, Not the End, and Recognition.
She has written for BBC drama Doctors and was a shortlisted BBC Talent Drama Writer. She has had short stories and articles published in various publications and anthologies, including Mslexia and Scotland on Sunday, and received a Yorkshire Arts award for her first novel.