Book review: Before You Go by Clare Swatman

Before You Go by Clare Swatman
Before You Go by Clare Swatman

When Zoe Williams’ beloved husband Ed is killed in an accident, his death is not just unreal for her but totally unfair.

The morning he died, she angrily snapped at him as he set off for work. Now she will never have the chance to tell him how much she really loved him… or will she?

Clare Swatman, a journalist for several weekly women’s magazines, makes us laugh, sigh and cry in a poignant debut novel that explores what we might do if we could travel back in time, and whether it is possible to reshape our destiny.

Can the smallest changes to actions in our past lives be enough to halt events in the future?

It wasn’t love at first sight for Newcastle University students Zoe Morgan and Ed Williams but the spark seemed always to be there just waiting to burst into life.

They fumbled their way into adulthood, both on different paths but always in the same direction, and years later, having navigated dead-end jobs and chaotic house shares, their romance eventually blossomed and they joyfully married.

The soulmates had finally found each other and apart from some unexpected hitches, their future together looked set… until the unthinkable happened. One morning, after a brief and curt farewell mainly due to the rage that seemed to be constantly simmering inside Zoe, Ed set off for work and was knocked off his bike.

For distraught Zoe, his death and the guilt over their parting is now unbearable. She knows she must find a way to survive but she is not ready to let go of the memories. How can she forget all of the happy times, their first kiss, everything they had built together?

When a bad fall throws her back in time, Zoe starts to relive the most decisive and tumultuous parts of her life with Ed… but can she really stop him from dying?

Swatman, who writes with assurance, persuasion and style, tackles the age-old conundrums of love, loss, regret and redemption in a moving, thought-provoking and cleverly crafted story that is charged with emotional energy.

As we travel back in time with Zoe and Ed to the pivotal days and events that were the bedrock of their relationship, we start to understand the difficulties and frustrations that led to the words that have haunted Zoe since their last farewell.

From their first meeting at university, through their wedding day and on to the stresses and strains of modern life, we watch as Zoe slowly tries to change the past in the hope that it will prevent tragedy in the future.

Bittersweet, warm and perceptive, this is a beautiful first novel from an exciting new author…

(Macmillan, hardback, £12.99)