by Fiona J. R. Titchenell
The Future Mrs Brightside introduces us to Chloe Hatherly and Jon Miller who meet at an open mic night at ‘The Rusty Stain’, where Chloe is the featured artist. The romance develops rapidly; they begin to write and perform music together, move in and become engaged in the space of barely a year. Then Jon’s Father, Roger, dies unexpectedly and all their future plans including their wedding are thrown into chaos…
I really enjoyed this novel and found it hard to put down. From a jaunty, slightly lightweight beginning it matures rapidly into a dark and quite complex examination of the effects of grief. Although depression is a theme in the novel, it is not depressing to read; quite the opposite due to the relatively pacey rhythm of the writing and non-linear form. The chapters flick intermittently back and forth in time from before Roger’s death to the aftermath. I did find this chronological jumping a little confusing at first but it soon settles into a pattern. I thought the writing concerned with the days and months following Roger’s demise to be the strongest. In the immediacy, Chloe, Jon and her friend Breanna work through the arrangements with black humour. There are touches of mirth and moments of explosive absurdity which perfectly mirrors the early stages of grief and borders on farce. However, there are enough subtle hints that suggest the bleakness and discord to come. And, it does get very bleak.
The deterioration of Chloe and Jon’s relationship and mental wellbeing is described in excruciating and agonising emotional detail. The second holiday to Las Vegas I almost read with one hand over my face; it’s beyond painful and so realistically written that you are wincing. Both characters become quite unlikeable and self-absorbed and the tension palpably springs from the page. Chloe’s internal monologues are churning stuff yet incredibly insightful with some profound observations. She is a more complex character than Jon, who although harder to read comes across as rather self-indulgent in parts. The other characters are nicely complementary; Roger just the right side of irritating, some of his exchanges with Chloe are relatable and resultingly, humorous. Breanna provided some credible relief from the relationship angst but I would have liked to have heard more from Lars and Shana, Chloe’s parents. The prose could be a little bit corny in places and, at times, it contrasted too sharply with the more philosophical chapters but was faultlessly edited.
The Future Mrs Brightside is a well-written, engaging novel with a seriously dark and contemplative heart. Highly recommended. Buy from: