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Mostly Fiction: "Hard to put down because the thrill of what's next beckons with each page."

Date: Oct 1 2010

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Reviewed by Bonnie Brody for Mostly Fiction

Rebecca Connell has written a finely fraught literary thriller and romance in her debut novel, The Art of Losing. It examines the legacy of loss and betrayal and the extent to which a person will go to seek out the truth.


Louise was ten years old when her mother died in a horrible automobile accident. She believes that Nicholas, her mother’s lover, is responsible for her death. Louise decides to infiltrate Nicholas’ life in order to find out the truth. When she is in her twenties, she changes her name to Lydia, her mother’s name, and heads off to Cambridge to find Nicholas who is a lecturer in a college there. Her first plan is to sit in on one of his lectures in order to get a feel for who he is. Serendipitously, at the lecture she meets his son, Adam, and he takes a liking to her. They begin to see each other and party together. She also goes to a cafe that she knows Nicholas frequents. She meets him for a brief moment and ends up crying.


Adam is a college student but “Lydia” is not. She is wholly involved in finding Nicholas and learning about her mother’s death and their relationship. When the college term ends, Adam invites “Lydia” to stay with his family during the break. How much more convenient a setting can that be for her! She notices, when introduced to Adam’s parents, that they cringe when they hear her name. They comment that it’s an unusual name but their reactions are like it’s a frightening and sorrowful memory from the past. “Lydia” keeps a straight face, not divulging any emotions. She and Adam share a room and she proceeds to infiltrate the family.


The novel is told in alternating chapters from the viewpoints of Nicholas and Louise. The chapters are also from different times in the relationship between Nicholas and Lydia. The reader finds out that Lydia was married to Martin when she met Nicholas but that they began their affair anyway. Their affair was passionate and on-going for several months. Nicholas wants Lydia to leave her husband, Martin, and be with him. She, however, decides to stay with Martin. Lydia and Martin move away and it is several years before Nicholas and Lydia cross paths again. Meanwhile, Lydia has a child, Louise, and she and Martin settle in Cambridge where Martin teaches. Nicholas also marries but he can’t let go of Lydia’s memory. He and his wife Naomi have a son, Adam. Ironically, they also live in Cambridge where Nicholas lectures.


On a casual walk in Cambridge, Nicolas runs into Adam and the two couples meet for dinner. The affair recommences with disastrous impact for the two families. Nicholas and Lydia respond to to one another like moths to a flame. Martin and Naomi are two innocents caught up in their partners’ frenzy.


As the novel takes up with “Lydia” in Nicholas’ home, Nicholas chooses to tell her the whole story of the affair, not realizing that she is Lydia’s daughter. He feels comfortable opening up to a perceived stranger. The story takes all kinds of twists and turns, making it eerie and unsettling. It has a gothic feel to it.


The book is a real page-turner and an excellent read. It is hard to put down because the thrill of what’s next beckons with each page. Connell has the knack for holding the reader’s interest and it’s hard to believe this is a debut novel. I look forward to more of her work.

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