- Published on Tuesday, 08 May 2012
- Written by Peter Burnett
‘I lived my whole life between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one. The rest is just the credits’. This is Ever Fallen in Love, by Zoe Strachan. Richard reads this quote from a First World War veteran when he is researching for his new war game based on The Somme. It reminds him of his own time at University. Richard and Luke, both working class and Scottish meet and bond at an elite university full of English public school types – a thinly disguised St Andrews. ‘Class bound us together’, says Richard, as he and Luke negotiate the Sloanes and Hooray Henrys who make up the majority of their fellow students.
Richard has a hopeless sexual obsession with the straight bad-boy Luke who realises this and plays with Richard’s feelings, making sure his gay friend sees and once even gets involved with his heterosexual exploits. Luke is a user – of girls, of drugs, of friends and Richard cannot get enough of him. Luke involves Richard in his selling of drugs and gets both of them evicted from their Halls of Residence. He half bullies Richard into joyriding; he inveigles Richard into a threesome with a girl. In the end, both are expelled from the university for their involvement in the death of a fellow female student.
The story interweaves the past – Richard and Luke’s time at university and the present where Richard, aged thirty, is holed up in the Scottish Highlands designing a computer game about the First World War. It is clear that he still feels he lived most intensely at this time at university, but at the same time he feels guilt at what happens and tries to forget it.
The catalyst for his memories is his younger sister Stephanie who comes to stay and starts asking questions about why he left the university under a cloud . As the story progresses, more is revealed about how Richard and Luke were implicated in the death of the student which led to their expulsion. An old university friend Callum, still working in academia writes and says he’s seen Luke who has gone back to the same university to complete his degree.
Zoe Strachan expertly recreates the student experience and the book is suffused with a feeling of regret and impossible yearning felt by those in the aftermath. Ever Fallen in Love is an involving and enjoyable read.