One cold November night, teenagers Will and Rosie meet while sitting around a bonfire, surrounded by their school friends including Rosie’s twin brother, and Will’s good friend, Josh. At first glance, we’ve met this couple before – the shy, straight-A girl who falls for the handsome, wrong-sides-of-the-track boy. But as we follow Will and Rosie on their will they/won’t they journey in the book of Claire Daverley's _Talking At Nigh_t, we realise things are never quite as they seem.
This beautifully written book begins in a small town in the 1990s and is split into three parts entitled ‘before’, ‘after’, and ‘long after’ (as the book unravels we learn the reasons behind these headings). It follows our couple’s complicated relationship over the next several decades, as they both attempt to navigate the challenges familiar to all of us, from parental expectations to the complexities of family dynamics, love, loss and grief.
‘The characters of Will and Rosie lived in my head for a long time before I started writing this book,’ author Claire Daverley tells Grazia. ‘The dialogue between the two of them kept cropping up in my mind, until one day I felt it was time to get their characters down on paper. I never intended to write a love story, but I’ve always been fascinated by the human condition, and the light and the dark of who we are.’
Is the character of Rosie based on herself? ‘Everybody asks that of an author’s debut, but while my emotional fingerprints are all over her – like the fact we both went to Oxford University and her sense of perfectionism – she’s entirely fictional. In fact, I think the way she lives her life, always trying to do the right thing by everybody and not always herself, is very relatable to most women.’
Along the way, we meet a cast of keenly observed characters, from Will’s loving grandma, who acts as a surrogate mother after his own deserts him, to Rosie’s emotionally icy mother, who makes it clear she has high expectations for her only daughter.
‘They had a really challenging relationship,’ explains Waverley. ‘But if you look closely there’s a lot of love and tenderness in their relationship. Like many parents, Rosie's mother just wants her to do and be her best, but she often goes about it the wrong way by pushing her daughter so hard. I had the backstory of so many characters, like Will and Rosie’s mothers, in my head while I was writing the book, so despite everything I have a lot of empathy for them, and the other surrounding characters.’
At its heart, this is a love story between two people who, in spite of the odds, keep finding their way back to each other. ‘Despite herself, all Rosie has ever wanted is to be beside Will because he makes her life so much better,’ says Waverley. ‘What that looks like is for the reader to find out. But their relationship doesn’t end tied neatly in a bow with a Hollywood ending, because life just isn’t like that.’
Grazia Book Club gives its verdict:
‘Talking at Night really captures the intensity of first love, and the frustration of unfinished sentences and unexpressed feelings, as well as the waves of grief that spill into every area of our lives, over and over.' Jane
‘The story of Rosie and Will spans decades and will enrapture you from the start; an unlikely pair that share a mutual tragedy that connects them forever. The writing in this book got me hooked and their journey kept me reading. I loved it!’ Chloe
‘Be prepared for a book hangover. The dreamy prose and complex characters will leave you craving so much more. This may be Daverley’s debut novel but I’m praying it won’t be her last.’ Fiona