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Review: After the End

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When I picked this book up at Sainsbury’s earlier this week (for £3.99 – a steal, in my opinion!), I did so under the assumption that this would be a romance novel – call it a guilty pleasure. With books, I generally have a very systematic way of purchasing them and the order goes as follows:

  • Am I hooked by the front cover?
    • No? Put the book on the shelf.
    • Yes? Continue to the next step.
  • Does the blurb sound interesting?
    • No? Put the book on the shelf.
    • Yes? Continue to the next step.
  • If I flick to a random page and read it, is it gripping enough to engage me?
    • No? Put the book on the shelf.
    • Yes? READ/BUY THE BOOK.

Honestly, I do try not to be pedantic about everything, but when something will require a large chunk of my time and energy, I try and make sure it is worthy of it! But, I digress (what’s new there, eh).

There’s a general rule of thumb that I’ve stuck to since I was in my early teens: never look up reviews or the author until you’ve finished reading the book. The reason I always do this is so that my personal perception isn’t skewed by the experiences of others when beginning to read. So, with nothing to work from but my own selection process, I picked up this (seemingly) romantic book in hopes that it would fill the rom-com void in my life, but alas, this book had other plans for me.

As with other reviews (that I do in my head and never get around to typing), this isn’t your typical play-by-play of the story itself, but rather a summary of what I’ve taken away from it because let’s be real, even the most basic of books carry an important message for us. For me, this book was about the banal realities of life which, in the grand scheme of things, are the things which shape who we grow to become. It is about the decisions which seem minuscule at the time but often change the shape of our futures.

This book, in all its basic glory, is about all the what-ifs and all the different ways life can manifest based on the actions of a single moment. In short, it is a small representation of both the horror and the beauty of all the lives unlived.

When you stand at the crossroad you cannot see each destination, only the beginnings of the paths that will lead you there. All you can do is hope that someone will walk with you.

After the End, Clare Mackintosh

Though this book takes a very nuanced position and shows us the versions of realities which can manifest through the eyes of a married couple in a very unique situation, there are a few things we can take away for our own selves:

  1. The difficult choices are always going to be hard on you, no matter which version of life you’re living.
  2. The thought of “what-if” will always haunt you, even if you go with what seems like the best decision. It’s an unfortunate case of feeling like the grass is greener on the other side (but you and I both know the grass is only green where you water it!).
  3. Sometimes your love for others can be clouded by the (very human) need to fulfil the ego – take a moment to check yourself and reassess your intentions.
  4. In the same breath, love in general is both blinding and deafening and it is therefore important to have an objective (and trustworthy!) third party who can help you see that which you may have been oblivious to.
  5. It may seem like everyone has their life together and somehow knew what the best choices to make were, but consider the duck metaphor, perfectly smooth on the surface but paddling like mad underwater where nobody can see just how much work goes in to staying afloat.

This book isn’t amazing. It isn’t life-changing. In fact, if you don’t pay enough attention to the details and the words between the lines, it could easily be said to be boring. But, it is honest. And it is real. And really, what more do we need in our life of delusions but a piece of art which uses the literary world to bring us face to face with our inevitable realities?

None of us knows what’s going to happen in the future, love. The only thing we can do is make our choices on the way we feel right here, right now.

After the End, Clare Mackintosh

If you have any book recommendations, drop me a message! It’s always interesting reading the recommendations of others and comparing experiences of reading the same book because no two people ever experience a book in the same way and I love hearing what others have to say.

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Ayesha Khanom

Sometimes a teacher, sometimes a student, but mostly caffeinated. This blog is a terrible attempt at writing out my thoughts - think of it as the 'comments, complaints, and suggestions' section of my brain. Nevertheless, I hope that some of these words will find a place in your heart and will stay with you even when I do not. If you'd like to get in touch, send me a message on Instagram or leave a comment on one of these posts and I'll get back to you at the best possible time.

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