Nicola only went to buy cigarettes and upon returning finds a stranger in her apartment. He looks like her live-in boyfriend, Jonathan, but he can't actually be the dependable known quantity whom Nicola loves that goes by the name of Jonathan. Can he? Before Nicola stands a man who is strong and adorable just like the old Jonathan, only this one ...
Nicola only went to buy cigarettes and upon returning finds a stranger in her apartment. He looks like her live-in boyfriend, Jonathan, but he can't actually be the dependable known quantity whom Nicola loves that goes by the name of Jonathan. Can he? Before Nicola stands a man who is strong and adorable just like the old Jonathan, only this one is no longer hers! This sad tale of love gone south still has its funny side. You have either to laugh or cry when you see, as acutely and elegantly as St John captures it here, the things women will do to hold on to love, and the things men will do to escape it. "St John's intelligence transforms a simple story into a much larger commentary on love and loss." - Mademoiselle "The Essence of the Thing grabs the reader's sympathy and attention from the startling first pages and doesn't let go." - Newsday "A brisk, sophisticated, and artful narrative" - New York Times Book Review
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Publishers Weekly, 1998-07-20 The difficulties of committing to a relationship make wonderful fodder for St. John's insightful, often hilarious third novel (after A Pure Clear Light). Out of the blue, Jonathan, a 30-something London lawyer, bluntly informs Nicola, his live-in girlfriend of six years, that they should split up because he feels the relationship "just isn't working." The impact of this decision stuns Nicola, who dutifully moves out of their apartment and tries to understand where things went wrong. Creating a brilliant primer on the battle of the sexes, the author brings together the observations of Nicola's married friends, Susannah and Geoffrey; Jonathan's married friends, Lizzie and Alfred; and the parting couple's respective parents. Although it is occasionally difficult to immediately discern who is speaking, the multiple viewpoints work well to enliven the pace and present a multifaceted glimpse into Nicola's predicament and Jonathan's unexpected reactions to the domestic tragedy he set in motion. Watching Nicola grieve for her lost love, readers experience everything from her bewildered sense of denial that she and Jonathan are actually breaking up to her final acceptance of her changed circumstances, and the bittersweet conclusions she comes to as she seeks other possibilities for romance and excitement. Using spare prose, sparkling dialogue and painfully true observations on family life, St. John creates a winning combination of humor and pathos. (Sept.)
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