I have read one Rupert Thomson novel before, his 2007 publication, the Costa nominated “Death Of A Murderer”, a novelised account featuring an unnamed central character who is Moors Murderer Myra Hindley which to be honest did not do a great deal for me. This is a much better novel which once again has true life characters as the central protagonists.
He is helped here by his subject matter. Two extraordinary women Lucy Schwob and Suzanne Malherbe who are true soul mates and adopt the names Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore and in the inter-war years become notable in the literary and artistic worlds of Paris aligning themselves perhaps most closely to the Surrealist movement. Before war is declared they move to their favourite holiday destination Jersey where, once occupied by Nazis, they begin their own acts of resistance not dissimilar to that in Hans Fallada’s marvellous novel “Alone In Berlin.”
The plot really does come alive in the war years with the continual threat of discovery adding much to the tension but the real strength here is the depiction of the relationship between the two women. Suzanne narrates a tale which starts off in 1940 where a German attack disrupts her evening swim and then moves back to chronologically depict their lives together in a manner not too far off from established facts about the pair.
Their relationship is beautifully written. Claude is not always easy to love and has a self-destructive streak which dismays her lover. Throughout all the drama the tone is one of calm which works extremely well.
I was seduced by on-cover recommendations from Sarah Waters “…an astonishing accomplishment” and Philip Pullman “..It’s a long time since I read a love story quite as convincing or truthful”, both writers I much admire but it was Thomson’s weaving of the tale and vibrant assured prose which really drew me in.
Never Anyone But You was published in 2018 by Corsair.