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Mersey beatStill Hereby Linda Grant 375pp Little BrownAlthough Linda Grants fine third novel opens with a death it is ultimately about that which endures often against considerable odds Set in Liverpool Chicago and Dresden - three cities that know something about endurance having all survived considerable conflagration and decay - it tells the story of a middle-aged couple who must decide if their relationship is worth the risk to their hard-earned independence Alix is a Liverpudlian woman on the cusp of 50 a one-time sociology professor who works for a charity that restores Jewish landmarks throughout the world She spends most of her time holed up in her converted French farmhouse trying to accept the fact that she will never marry To be a single woman at the age of 49 is no laughing matter to fear that love and erotic desire will now and in the future always be a thing of the past It is bearable but only with a great deal of ingenuity Although the reader soon comes to realise that Alix is not as unlovable as she believes it is easy to see why this outspoken passionate slightly garish creature sends men packing After nearly a half-century of waiting she meets her match when she returns to Liverpool for the death of her long-suffering mother At the funeral she runs into Joseph Shields a Jewish-American architect who is in town to oversee the construction of an art hotel which he hopes will help revivify the crumbling city Like Alix Joseph is something of a grizzled erotic veteran his marriage of 23 years on the rocks after his wife decides she needs to find herself outside the confines of their relationship He is also having trouble with his 16-year-old son back in Chicago who lacks ambition for anything but skateboarding and rap music The courtship of these two prickly characters brings to mind the old joke about how porcupines mate - very
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