I remember reading the description of Survived by her Longtime Companion by Chris Paynter when it came out and thinking it sounded too sombre for the kind of story I was in the mood for, but ever since I’ve kept hearing how much people have loved this novel. So when it came up as the book of the month on the Facebook lesficReader group, I thought I would take a look at it, and I’m extremely glad that I did.
The rekindling of the relationship between the younger protagonists, although harrowing at times, is told with warmth, great observation and some lovely humour. But it is Eleanor, the older British character, and her great life-long romance with Daphne that completely stole the show for me.
Here’s the blurb:
Hired to work on a biography of the late film star, Daphne DeMonet, Bailey Hampton arrives to conduct an interview with Eleanor Burnett, Daphne’s “longtime companion.” To Bailey’s dismay, she learns Eleanor has set up a co-interview with Bailey’s ex-partner, Chelsea Parker.
Estranged for eleven months, the two women hide their painful memories and strain to be civil to one another. Eleanor startles them by insisting that they take turns reading aloud from Eleanor’s diaries of her life with Daphne DeMonet. Only after the diaries are read in her presence will Eleanor proceed with a full interview.
Once Eleanor discovers that Bailey and Chelsea are ex-partners, the diary readings take on a new meaning for her. Can they learn from the mistakes she and Daphne made as young lovers? Will that knowledge bring Bailey and Chelsea together again? Or is it too late to mend their broken relationship?
I found this an emotionally gripping novel and the story between Bailey and Chelsea starting as they split up made an interesting and tender romance. There are also many nice touches that flesh out Bailey and Chelsea’s relationship including habits of a long-term relationship that made me cringe because I recognised them: “fine” being an answer that means nothing of the sort – the other four-letter f word as Eleanor says.
Eleanor is the star of this book for me (why do I always fall for the older woman). She’s attractive, witty, classy, flirtatious with an amusing lack of patience and a friendly but sharp edge to her. This wasn’t something I’d pictured from the blurb, but it was a real draw for me. I also found Eleanor’s first-person narrative through her diaries convincingly British, different from the very American telling of Chelsea and Bailey’s story. Eleanor uses the occasional American term (as she would living in the States for so long) but the feel of her story was very British for me.
Her story – an almost lifelong romance with film star Daphne – is completely absorbing. It spans glamorous 50s Hollywood to poignant heart-breaking moments of an ailing film star and old woman. I felt the same way as Bailey and Chelsea at the end – knowing Daphne was dead but wishing the story would re-write itself to make it not so – this was very effective writing
Survived by Her Longtime Companion is a great love story I’m glad that I didn’t miss. I gave it 5 stars.