Are we where we truly should be? Where we belong with those who love us absolutely? These questions are at the heart of ‘The Frequency of Us’, a novel that defies genres and offers in one sweep romance, elements of the supernatural and hints of a ghost.
I was propelled by explosive force into the book as German bombs fall upon the city of Bath on the fateful night of 26th April 1942. Amongst the terror of the barrage of explosions Will Emerson, a young wireless engineer, dashes to rescue a neighbour’s son who is in Will’s radio workshop. Heading back across the long garden he sees his Austrian wife, Elsa Klein shouting a warning to him; a warning he fails to heed and instead, looking up he sees a bomb heading their way … then there is the light.
At this moment Will’s life and those around him are changed beyond one’s wildest imagination.
He awakens to a world without Elsa, where seemingly no one knows of her and his house has returned to its earlier bachelor self.
Already thoroughly hooked by the superb narrative the novel quickly moves seventy years into the future and introduces Laura James, a young woman whose life is defined by her emotional abuse by her father which led to her chronic anxiety and depression. As her first job back after her breakdown which included strong antidepressants, Laura is assigned as a carer to an elderly gentleman, to assess his needs and possible removal from his rundown home. A house that feels haunted. The home of Will Emerson.
The two are opposites in many ways, Will’s curmudgeonly nature almost drives Laura away, yet they are oddly drawn to each other, finding a form of understanding and gradually she becomes convinced his memories of Elsa and life pre-1942 are not signs of dementia but actual events. Laura’s tenacious research threatens to break her down once again and as she meets people from his earlier years, discovers events from the night of the bombing, Will’s and Laura’s lives become irrevocably intertwined.
Throughout a refrain used constantly by Will and one she heard as young from her father runs through her head: “Everything is always happening.” Somehow this seems the key, but how?
At one particularly low point, suffering from suspected severe medication withdrawal side-effects, Laura reflects wryly: “We are not credible witnesses to our own life.” Of course, the truth is far more complex, immersive and emotionally wrought.
As the mystery deepens the author’s deft handling of the complicated strands of the plot creates an intense read. Only afterwards did I fully appreciate all the clever details which foreshadowed the nail-biting final section of the book. I read like one possessed, racing to finish the book yet rueing the moment I would reach its end.
‘The Frequency of Us’ unfolds through a series of alternating first-person narratives of war-time Will and modern-day Laura. These are interspersed with the occasional voice of other characters which reinforce the story, all created with Keith Stuart’s natural flair.
From the first, I was completely enthralled by ‘The Frequency of Us’, hooked by the combination of heartwarming and vibrant romance and confusing conflicting paranormal events. Will, Laura and the myriad of other characters are portrayed with heart and skill, quickly entering my psyche and remaining there.
This is a superb and original third novel by Keith Stuart and as with ‘A Boy Made of Blocks’ and ‘Days of Wonder’, a book that will stay with me and I highly recommend. I’m eagerly awaiting his next book!
I received a free copy of this book from the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest and impartial review.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Publication Date: 25th March 2021
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group / Sphere