This is my first ever experience reading a book before print, and it took a little while for me to get into this one, but once I was in, the payoff was worth it. Never Anyone But You follows Suzanne and Claude (Luci) from falling in love as teenagers in the early 1900s through the many different Paris art movements post World War I, onto their Nazi resistance during World War II, and their final years on the small isle of Jersey.
In truth, the first 100 pages of this book were a little rough to find my footing in, and I’m not sure if it was the first person storytelling, or the characters themselves, or the very minimalist details that Thompson favored, but settling into this book was a bit rough. I kept pushing through because I really wanted to like this book, and I was interested in finding out how Suzanne and Claude fared during the World War II section, so I forged ahead and was not disappointed. The back half of this book is wonderful and the end is poignantly beautiful.
The most interesting thing to me, and one of the things I struggled with in the beginning of this story was trying to follow all the different historical figures Suzanne and Claude hang out with. Dali makes an appearance, along with a host of Dada artists and famous silent film actors. The names literally go soaring by, to resurface tangentially later on as a letter in the post or a memory in old age, which totally pays off on an emotional level late in the book. But in the moment, I had no idea why I was running into so many characters who didn’t seem to be all that important. It was frustrating, but the longer I stayed in the book, the more I realized that these strange run-ins and fast snapshots were actually probably very true to how these women would have interacted with all these people.
The post war art scene was a crazy time with a lot of experimental drugs and alcohol, and the mode of the 20s seemed to be a kind of detached interest in everything. Suzanne and Claude host parties where their apartment is literally bursting with people who they may or may not actually know. They run in strange circles with beat poets, naked dancers, inflammatory writers and revolutionists. They are really the only constant in each others’ lives, but at the same time, they can only truly be themselves in the society of these tangential artists.
By the time I got to the end of this book, all the confusion and strangeness of the front half made complete sense, as Thompson has to show us the ‘before’ so to speak, so we’re able to completely understand the ‘after’.
In the end, I really enjoyed this book, and I recommend staying it with it through the first 100 pages, because the last 200 pages is totally worth your time.
4 stars. -1 for taking so long to get me interested.