I’m a big fan of catharsis.
There’s something innately satisfying about reading a book or watching a film that wrenches your heart out of your chest, stomps on it a little bit, and then shoves it back in, leaving you with an indelible ache that you can’t quite put into words.
And that’s pretty much how I feel about anything that’s got Nicholas Sparks at its core.
You read Sparks for his ability to capture intense emotional connection, and See Me, his first book in about two years, didn’t disappoint.
At its heart are two characters who are in the middle of starting again. Colin Hancock has a history of violence and is finally at college, studying to be a teacher. He’s stoic and bluntly honest in a way that’s sometimes a little shocking, but I suppose what I like best about Colin is his role as a second chance character.
Second chance characters have made huge mistakes in their past, but have turned (or are in the process of turning) their life around. The flaw that often rears its ugly head with these kind of characters, is how that process of starting again is portrayed; it`s all too easy to have a turning point after which everything falls easily into place. Life is never that simple.
Needless to say, Sparks doesn’t fall into this trap. Colin’s blunt honesty can be attributed to the fact that he has to be honest with himself at all times, as that helps him stay grounded.
He’s also got a support network in his friend Evan, and Evan’s fiancee Lily, but we rarely see his family due to their strained relationship. And most importantly, Colin doesn’t find this easy. He has strategies in place, things he does to keep himself out of trouble, but his instincts are darker than most people’s and that’s captured with sensitivity.
Maria Sanchez, our heroine, has led a pretty sheltered life and so when she asks Colin about his past, and why he’s at college so late, he tells her with some of that blunt honesty. Sparks doesn’t shy away from the fact that there are differences between the main couple; their instincts are quintessentially different, and their backgrounds even more so. But opposites attract and there’s a gentleness to their burgeoning relationship.
All of this is set against the backdrop of suspense and fear. As the narrative unfolds, we find out more and more about why Maria left her previous job and has returned to her hometown, and it soon appears that something or someone may be watching her.
Romance suspense can be hard to get right, and Sparks perfectly balances the love story and the development of Colin and Maria’s feelings for each other with a thriller-esque plot that unfolds at the perfect pace.
There is, of course, a fair amount of heartache and conflict, but I fell in love with these characters, this setting and I’m entirely convinced that this book assays any misconceptions people may have about love stories not being well-written. Utterly gorgeous.
Now, I’m lucky enough to have a signed copy of See Me for a giveaway! So leave a comment about your favourite Nicholas Sparks book, and I will choose one commenter at random on Friday morning.