Seeking Eden, by Beverley Harvey, is not the sort of book I would normally read. I suspect it may fall under the genre of women’s fiction – although I consider the descriptor soap opera fiction to be more fitting, women liking a broader range of books than some seem to believe. The story centres around a middle aged married couple, Kate and Neil, who move out of London to a new build housing estate in suburban Kent. Kate is a copy-writer and Neil works in advertising. Naturally they are both beautiful people.
After the move Kate works from home, although she has plenty of time for other pursuits. Neil finds the lengthy commute to the city exhausting so takes a room in a friend’s flat, coming back to their new home for weekends. Kate is lonely without him and misses the bustle of their previous life, her old friends showing little interest now that she is less readily available. She gets a dog for company and joins a gym. Slowly she starts to make new friends.
Ben is a one hit musician and an old flame of Kate’s. When he gets in touch after many years, in an attempt to win her back despite her marriage, she is tempted. With Neil away during the week it is easy for her to meet up with Ben, something she comes to regret.
Kate befriends Lisa, another siren, and ex-wife of a successful footballer. Lisa is scornful when she becomes the object of a local shopkeeper’s mid-life fantasies. His wife suffers from depression and he is struggling to cope with her moods. Their daughter has recently moved out of the family home leaving it bereft.
Alongside this cast of characters are Kate’s sister and confidant, Alice, and a bevy of well groomed acquaintances. Over the course of a couple of years there are affairs, misunderstandings and a death. Jobs evolve effortlessly, although behaviours ensure personal lives do not run smooth. The action is played out against the backdrop of a quietly affluent housing estate that the cool London crowd regard with disdain – I found this particular prejudice illuminating.
The writing is polished and the plot as tangled as people have a tendency to be. Much is made of personal presentation, including of partners, regarded as desirable accessories.
For those who enjoy gossip, about acquaintances and others, this was like a catch-up with a distant friend. It is effortless entertainment, and there is nothing wrong with that.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Urbane.