#aww2018 · 2018 Reviews · Australian · historical fiction

Book Review: The Art of Preserving Love by Ada Langton

Title: The Art of Preserving Love art of preserving love small

Author: Ada Langton

Published: January 21st 2018

Publisher: Harlequin –  Mira

Pages: 448

Genres: Fiction, Historical, Australian

RRP: $29.99

Rating: 4 stars

An historical saga of undying love and family, the tragedy of war and the power of hope.

From a small Australian country town to the tragic backdrop of World War 1, this is a story of a love that surmounts all odds…

Ballarat, 1905

The gossips call 19–year–old Edie Cottingham the ‘Too Girl’ – too stubborn, too outspoken, and too modern to get a husband. But Edie does not care. She is determined to defy them all and find love with Theo Hooley, the gentle church organist and veteran of the African Boer war.

But just as Theo prepares to ask Edie’s father for her hand, their world is turned upside down. Edie’s mother is gone and she must care for her new baby sister. Gracie is a sickly baby with a special smile that enchants everyone who sees it. How can Edie marry and leave the family home now?

But Theo Hooley is a man who knows how to wait. Every Sunday, Theo walks from his home to woo Edie, rose in hand. Each week Edie refuses him, knowing that he is asking for more than a walk around the lake on a Sunday afternoon. Each week Theo resolves anew to wait for her.

Slowly the town begins to fall under the spell of the romance. Women sigh and men mutter at the challenge Theo presents to their relationships. As the local children create a growing procession that follows Theo each week, the whole community becomes caught up in his display of devotion, until an unexpected event changes all their lives.

My review:

Love, war, duty and time define the debut novel by Australian author Ada Langton. Behind the romantic, hearts and flowers style cover of this debut, lies a story of great depth. The Art of Preserving Love is a testament to the various forms of love that define our existence. It  covers love for our partners, family members, dear friends and even our country. This novel gently reminded me of the all-encompassing nature of one of our core human emotions, love.

Situated in the Victorian town of Ballarat, The Art of Preserving Love is an expansive tale, that travels through the years 1905, through to 1924. In these years, there are many social, political and world changes, as well as the impact of World War I. The novel first introduces the reader to Edie Cottingham, a progressive and headstrong woman, ahead of her time. While Edie’s chances of securing the love of a husband seem remote to many, Edie sets her sights set on Theo. This returned soldier from the Boer War and the local church organist becomes the object of Edie’s affection. However, circumstances get in the way of their courtship and as the couple are about to confirm their intention to marry, a tragedy strikes at the core of Edie’s family. Duty and sacrifice now defines Edie’s life and it is with great regret that Edie chooses not to go ahead with her marriage plans to Theo. Instead, Edie remains at her family’s side, caring for her younger sister, after the absence of their mother. Theo’s resolve to marry Edie doesn’t wane and he continues to petition for her love. Theo’s devotion to Edie reminds the local town of what true romance really means, however, Edie continues to resist Theo’s requests of a formal union. When the unexpected call of war enters the local town, it changes the lives of everyone.

I love the deeply romantic cover of this debut novel, the symbol of the red roses that adorn the front cover of this book definitely attracted this reader to The Art of Preserving Love. The title, The Art of Preserving Love, is a perfect fit, it mirrors the main motifs present in this novel. To love is an art, it is often about sustaining yourself and the leads in this book show us how it is done. I also must mention my immediate liking of the format of this novel. It is presented with great thought. Each chapter opening indicates who is in charge of the chapter’s narration, where it is situated and it begins with a poignant quote. I found myself quickly turning the pages of the novel to find out how each new chapter would begin. Complimenting this are the visually stunning flower motifs that appear as paragraph breaks within each individual chapter.

I loved the colourful personalities that define this novel. There are the leads, Edie and Theo, who immediately drew my sympathies. Theo is a quiet character with such a strong resolve, it made me envious of his ability to be so patient, as well as loving. He does have a heart of gold. Edie, a woman who I felt was harshly labelled, gained my full respect. It was sad to watch on as these two deserving souls let love pass them by. But, The Art of Preserving Love is about much more than Edie and Theo. Linked to this couple’s pathway to love are a wonderful supporting cast that are outlined superbly by Langton. From Edie’s father Paul, dear sister Gracie, Beth, Theo’s mother Lily and later as the book moves on into different territory, Reuben Rosenburg.  These characters all contribute a great deal to the novel.

I would describe The Art of Preserving Love as a slow burner, it almost has a simple stroll like quality to the pacing, but for me, this worked well and suited the overall tone of the novel. For those who are not keen on plodding style novels, I would suggest you stick with this novel as it does pick up once the events move to the World War I sequences. This is where Langton shows us what she is made of. I found the World War I scenes to be confronting and gutsy. I am a big fan of this era and I always lap up any form of literature that features an Australian perspective of war. Langton treats these scenes with the respect, obvious attention to historical detail and insight it deserves. I never fail to be moved by the overwhelming sense of sacrifice and loss we suffered during World I. Langton ensures this is felt profoundly by the reader.

Langton draws on numerous themes to tie all the compelling threads of her first novel together. Within this arresting narrative, Langton explores social change, political upheaval, world events, the impact of war, conscription, PTSD, workers rights, the labour moment, faith and the rise in feminism. There is a lot of ground to cover, but each and every topic contained in The Art of Preserving Love has a place to bear in the overall proceedings of the novel.

I love books that closely examine small town settings, especially in times past. The Art of Preserving Love is a novel that carefully provides a sketch of life in a small town life in 1900’s Australia. It is a worthy and fascinating glimpse of the inner working of a town, the mindset, the overall vibe, formative identities and the sense of banding together as a community in times of need. I enjoyed escaping to this unfamiliar part of Australia for the time I spent with The Art of Preserving Love. 

The Art of Preserving Love has a keynote address to convey and I took this way from the experience of reading the book. Lessons on the importance of endurance, humility, valour and the sense of yearning that come with all facets of love define this sedate tale.  All in all, I loved this alternative take on romance, it satisfied my heart and soul. The  ending was deeply satisfying and I am sure this will resonate with other readers of this novel. A simply lovely novel. I am very happy to recommend The Art of Preserving Love to others.

The Art of Preserving Love by Ada Langton was published on 21st January 2018 by Harlequin Mira. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of The Art of Preserving LoveAda Langton visit here.

The Art of Preserving Love, is book #104 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge

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3 thoughts on “Book Review: The Art of Preserving Love by Ada Langton

  1. Sometimes it makes the book a more pleasurable read when one has visited the town the story is set in but of course, it’s also nice to read of new locations too!

    Liked by 1 person

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