The Return by Jan Bowles
Length: Short (147 pages)
Rating: 4 Books
Reviewed by Edelweiss
Whilst on assignment in Iraq, English TV presenter and journalist Robert Tremayne is captured by Islamic Jihadists and held hostage. His soul mate, Marielle, can barely come to terms with her loss but tries to move on with her life.
Two years later Robert is discovered alive. Marielle is overjoyed, but her life has changed beyond all recognition, and the man she loved is now very different. His time in Iraq has left him cold, emotionless and detached. There's much to tell, and each wants desperately to return to the way things once were.
With the past always there to come between them, will they be able to recapture their lost love? Will they ever be happy again?
In Jan Bowles’ The Return, two former lovers grapple with a past strewn with betrayal, misfortune, and bad judgments. Robert is a renown journalist and author who is captured and killed in Iraq by the Islamic Jihad. Marielle, his lover and soul mate, is shattered and listlessly accepts solace from his best friend. But hold on. Two years later, Robert is found alive and is rescued by US Special Forces. He returns only to discover that Marielle has married his best friend and is a mother to boot. Robert’s happy homecoming is thus transformed to bitterness, and much of the book is devoted to how he and Marielle deal with his vitriolic sense of betrayal in the wake of some startling turn of events.
It is hard to describe much of this story without giving away important plot elements. We start with a lot of pent up mysteries and tension. These are mostly released in the early chapters, but only in a way that generates a new plot reality and higher suspense about how this book will turn out. Equally captivating are the characters. Marielle is complex. She feels defensive about her past decisions and by additional secrets that Robert doesn’t want to hear. Robert is ruled by his bitterness, and it sometimes drives him to a cruel fury. Although this makes him hard to like for much of the story, he captivates, making us powerless to turn away from his antics, his suffering, or the changes he undergoes as the story progresses. Some of the middle scenes border on chaos: the characters alternately hurting each other, then responding to passions they cannot deny. Although these scenes are unsettling—they punish and set back chances of reconciliation—they come across as genuine, in a real world sense, and they add to the story’s suspense. It is only a very jagged line of events that eventually leads upward, one strewn with more landmines from the past, but the denouement is well worth the read.
This book is not without flaws. Although the compact prose is a strength, flowing with exceptional energy, better would have been proper use of commas, many of which are missing. The interrupted love scene on page 26 shows a comic misunderstanding of the male sex drive which, once fully aroused, is not easily deterred or, in this instance, simply cancelled. And the book extends about ten pages past the story’s true denouement. Good editing would have cut that ten pages to the two needed to tie up loose ends.
But these are minor quibbles. The Return is a complex tale that brims with high plot tension and suspense. Plus it ultimately becomes a beautiful love story, one the reader will not soon forget.