Title: Come Again
Author: Robert Webb
Published: April 23rd 2020
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 3 stars
The debut novel – a time-travelling story of love and adventure – from the number one bestselling author of How Not To Be a Boy and star of Peep Show.
You can’t fall in love for the first time twice.
Kate’s husband Luke – the man she loved from the moment she met him twenty-eight years ago – died suddenly. Since then she has pushed away her friends, lost her job and everything is starting to fall apart.
One day, she wakes up in the wrong room and in the wrong body. She is eighteen again but remembers everything. This is her college room in 1992. This is the first day of Freshers Week. And this was the day she first met Luke.
But he is not the man that she lost: he’s still a boy – the annoying nineteen-year-old English student she first met. Kate knows how he died and that he’s already ill. If they can fall in love again she might just be able to save him. She’s going to try to do everything exactly the same…
‘There. Standing in the doorway, politely letting someone out, running a careless hand though his dark hair. Luke Fairbright, nineteen years old, come again.’
British author Robert Webb is both a Sony and BAFTA award winner. He has one book, an autobiography under his belt, but Come Again is Webb’s first adult fiction offering. A story of love, grief, hope, grand adventure and change, Come Again offers an entertaining read for contemporary fiction readers.
In this sliding doors type scenario, Come Again looks at the possibility of falling in love for the first time again thanks to a magical possibility. In the present day, forty-something Kate is nursing a broken heart and a whole lot of grief following the loss of her husband Luke to a brain tumour. Kate has loved Luke for almost three decades and his loss has left a huge hole in her life. Unable to focus on her job, life or friends, Kate is inconsolable. When Kate reaches breaking point, wakes up in the past. Kate has been transported back to the pivotal moment in time when she first met Luke, her college years. Kate realises she has the opportunity to recreate the moment that she first fell in love with Luke. Kate also sees this leap back in time as a chance to change the future, can Kate save Luke? But when Kate messes with time and circumstance, the results may cause further complications for this grieving widow.
I am not familiar with the author of this novel, Robert Webb, so Come Again was my first taste of his work. A popular screen star and columnist, Webb ventures into the fiction world in his new release. Come Again is one of a spate of books that I have read recently that seem to have a strong visual and screen quality. I think my immediate impression of this book is that it would work far better on the small or big screen, especially as a great British rom com. The author’s background in the screen industry has influenced the style and direction of this novel.
Come Again is segregated into three distinct parts. When the story begins, we meet Kate, who is desperately grieving over the loss of her husband less than a year earlier to a brain tumour. Webb offers some insight into the world of grief and pain following such a tragic loss, which I appreciated.
‘Grief though . . . grief is the opposite of meaning; grief is where the present can’t breathe; where the past is everywhere you look; where every new moment is dead on arrival. Grief is Groundhog Day.’
I also sympathised with Kate and her situation. I had great hope that Kate would be able to pull herself through the grief process and come out the other side. In part two we are placed in a time warp situation as Kate is miraculously transported back to her youth, her college days, where she meets her husband Luke again. It took me awhile to get my head around this idea and as I have come to realise with time travel novels I had questions about the whole mechanics of the time travel situation. Anyway, I did see this as more a sliding doors situation, a what if. Imagine if you had the chance to recapture the moment you fell in love for the first time again, it is quite a romantic notion. However, the complication to this narrative is that Kate is a forty plus widow and the Luke she falls in love with again is immature. Luke clearly needs much more time to grow. I did like how Kate saw the time leap as a lifeline as such, Kate has the power to change to course of Luke’s life and to warn him of his early death from a brain tumour. This aspect of the novel was interesting. However, there were some far fetched, almost ludicrous moments in Come Again, where Kate encounters gangsters, spies and karate chops her way through the road blocks she faces. It was all a bit silly to be honest and it steered me away from my full enjoyment of Robert Webb’s novel. Some may find it funny, but for me it just seemed absurd!
In the third and final part of the novel, Kate is thrown back into the present day after her sojourn in the past. We learn of the results of her tinkering with Luke’s life and the results were surprising. On reflection, this one didn’t really work for me, there were some glimmers of interest, which came from Kate’s emotional recovery process, along with some of the sequences in the past that enabled Webb to throw in some 90s nostalgia. I also genuinely wanted Kate to save Luke from his brain tumour, so I did care for these characters.
It would be a little remiss of me to say this one would be an easygoing read for those who want some escapism from reality, especially as Come Again deals with overwhelming grief and devastating loss. However, Come Again was a quick read and there are some witty moments that may appeal to those who are familiar with Webb’s work.
Come Again by Robert Webb was published on 23rd April 2020 by Allen & Unwin. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
*Thanks extended to Allen & Unwin for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.
*Book #6 of the 2020 International Male Author Challenge.