Henry Applebee has lived a long, eventful life. But his fondest memories are of the woman he met when he left the army; he fell in love in Blackpool and then lost touch, regretting it ever since.
And so, one December morning, he boards a train from London to Edinburgh, determined to find the woman he lost all those years ago.
Henry meets a young woman, Ariel, and a young man, Travis, on the train and recounts his story as they travel together towards his future.
As advertised, this is a heart-warming and touching story about a man looking for his lost love. It is told with delight and wonder through the eyes and ears of the young people with whom he shares his cross-country trip.
One of the things that struck me about this book as I was reading is how it offers a multi-dimensional reading experience. The author, Celia Reynolds, created some playlists on Spotify which I listened to as I was reading the book, and it really did give it that extra something. There’s a playlist for each character, adding depth to their personalities that would be difficult to achieve through words alone. The fact that I enjoyed all the songs on a personal level was an added bonus too! Click the links below to listen to the playslists.
The characters were diverse and each brought something to the party with their distinct voices. I particularly enjoyed how Henry’s flashbacks were told in the present tense, further amplifying the feeling of being there with him in those moments. The imagery was excellent and I found myself googling pictures of the places they were talking about (I’ve added some of these below). It really is an immersive piece of fiction, one you can easily get lost in.
There are triggers, which I’ve detailed below. If you don’t want to read them (as they do contain a big spoiler), just be warned that if you’ve come across this review through my social media channels, it could be a difficult one for you.
Blackpool, with its famous tower, circa 1968.
Bethesda Fountain in Central Park, New York
Henry is portrayed as a childless man, which is what piqued my interest in the story to begin with. He tells his story and talks of his life as a childless man, and because of this I have decided to add it to my website albeit with a caveat and a red trigger warning – this is because, as it turns out (and you may not be surprised by this pronatalist turn of events), Henry and Francine had a child of which he never knew. The ending of the book is a classic ‘happy ever after’ scenario in which he becomes the father and grandfather he never got to be.