Mine by Clare Empson #BookReview #BlogTour

'Who am I? Why am I here? Why did my mother give me away?'

On the surface, Luke and his girlfriend Hannah seem to have a perfect life. He's an A&R man, she's an arts correspondent and they are devoted to their new-born son Samuel.

But beneath the gloss Luke has always felt like an outsider. So when he finds his birth mother Alice, the instant connection with her is a little like falling in love.

When Hannah goes back to work, Luke asks Alice to look after their son. But Alice - fuelled with grief from when her baby was taken from her 27 years ago - starts to fall in love with Samuel. And Luke won't settle for his mother pushing him aside once again...

I'm delighted to be hosting the blog tour for Mine today. Many thanks to Clare Empson, Orion Books and Tracy Fenton from Compulsive Readers for inviting me and for my advance copy of the novel, received through Netgalley.

Having a baby is frequently cited as a life-changing experience by many parents but for Luke the instant love he feels for his son, Samuel is bittersweet as he was adopted and though he had a privileged upbringing, he has always felt like an outsider. However, he has managed to trace his birth mother, Alice and Mine opens with their first tentative meeting.
The narrative switches between Luke's storyline and his desperate need to connect with the woman who gave birth to him but then gave him away and Alice's experiences twenty-seven years previously which eventually come to explain why she reached the decision to let her baby son go. Although there is a creeping sense of dread in both storylines, Mine isn't so much a psychological thriller as a beautifully observed, empathetic domestic drama which doesn't seek to assign blame but instead sensitively explores the need to feel wanted and to belong to somebody.
Many of us will have seen television programmes where an adopted child is reunited with one or both of their birth parents but other than a brief update, we don't always discover how these strangers who are so closely related manage to negotiate their new relationships with each another. It's not uncommon for people to claim they feel an instant bond with a long-lost parent or child and that's reflected here with Luke and Alice experiencing an intense connection with one another. Luke's girlfriend, Hannah immediately clicks with Alice too and when they are introduced to Rick, the successful artist who Luke has learned is his father, there is a natural warmth between them all that suggests Luke will finally experience the feeling of belonging he believes has always been missing from his life. In contrast, his relationship with his adoptive mother seems strained and awkward and though she offers to help with Samuel, it seems that she is unable to respect their parenting decisions and instead looks to assert her own beliefs on child-rearing on them.
In 1972, the nineteen-year-old Alice is in her first term at Slade but doubts whether she deserves her place as one of only twelve students accepted on the fine arts degree. Fortunately she has Rick to bolster her confidence and throughout the course of the novel, I loved the beautiful depiction of the friendship between the pair which epitomises the value of platonic love. However, it's her relationship with Jake which I found to be the most compelling part of the book; as a rock star who has already tasted success and looks set for stardom, his interest in the much younger Alice could have felt predatory but the passionate love affair that develops between them is actually deeply touching. As the story progresses and we learn more about their formative years, it isn't surprising that the pair should be so drawn to one another but even when things seem to be almost perfect there is always a sense of uneasy foreboding because we know that eventually Alice will reach the point where she becomes unable to keep her son. There's a heartrending poignancy to these chapters and it's here that the truth as to why the modern day Alice behaves as she does, is finally revealed.
The relationship between Alice and Luke is absolutely fascinating; both are immensely believable, flawed characters who are driven by their pasts to take increasingly desperate action to protect those they love. Although there are times when they are evidently in the wrong, it's impossible not to feel deep sympathy for their anguish - Clare Empson so perfectly captures the unbearable pain of love and loss here. The sense of time is rendered superbly too, especially in the parts of the book set in the seventies where the the attitudes of the time - particularly regarding sexual liberation and homosexuality  - are examined, and the music and fashion of the era is used to great effect.
Mine is one of those books that got under my skin, I genuinely cared about these vulnerable, very real characters and although I expected the tears, the intensity of the emotions evoked in the latter part of the novel still caught me by surprise. There's hope here too, however, with the recognition that love and families come in all forms. Engrossing, sensitive and heartbreaking writing such as this deserves every plaudit coming its way and Mine should be an enormous success. I highly recommend it.

Mine is published by Orion Books, purchasing links can be found here but please try and support our wonderful independent bookstores whenever possible, particularly in these strange and uncertain times.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author

Clare is a journalist with a background in national newspapers – small business editor, finance correspondent and fashion at the Mail on Sunday and the Daily Express, freelance for The Sunday Telegraph, The Sunday Times, the Evening Standard and Tatler amongst others. She currently works as editor/founder of experiential lifestyle website http://www.countrycalling.co.uk.
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