It seems like authors these days are experimenting more and more with switching point of views in the story. I think it's fair to say that that's what made Jodi Picoult famous. Unfortunately, not all writers are necessarily good at juggling so many point of views and some stories really would benefit from being more simple in their narrative.
One of them is A Place for Us Part 1; a book by Harriet Evans, someone who is known by many and a book I read before the July 31 release date.
(Btw, it is very clearly "Part 1": I did not read a whole story, just the beginning of it. So my review might be slightly off, but the publishers chose to give reviewers just the part one so I'll work with it.)
A Place for Us is about the Winter family and a big announcement that Martha Winter, the matriarch of the family, will make at a party. What is the announcement? The whole family thinks they know, but the reader definitely doesn't. We are told that the announcement will tear the family apart, so that keeps the suspense going. The book follows each characters as they either write the invitation, hear about the invitation or receive the invitation to the party. The announcement is what ties together family members who haven't been that close in the past.
The book starts with the point of view of Martha and then switches to her husband, all of her children, some grandchildren, some husbands and wives,.... Long story short: EVERYONE gets a chapter with their own point of view in it. Which made this book an exhausting read. Not only do you have to keep track of who is talking now and how they fit into the family tree (a drawing of this at the beginning of the book would have been extremely useful btw), but you also don't get the time to connect to one of the characters. When you finally get into the head of one of them, you switch to another character and don't return to the one you liked for a good 5 to 6 chapters. That's too long. I respect the need as an author to tell the story from different points of view, but I really wish she would have just picked three at the most.
Added to that, there is a time jump at some point in the story - we suddenly see one of the children in an earlier time. I am all for time jumps and it was useful in this particular book, because all the family members talked about how one of the children suddenly "just left and never came back". It's good to find out a little bit about why they left. But add that to the constant switching of point of view and you have one very confused reader.
The point of views (yes, I know I'm rambling on about it, but it is the main device of this story) also caused the book to be slow. Especially the start. We meet all the characters in their own chapters and we get loooong descriptions about who they are and why they are like that. Not a lot of action, but a lot of description. It just didn't hook me into the story like I would have wanted to. For example, Mr. Winter is in a café in London to meet someone. When he actually meets that person, it becomes very interesting (and a spoiler), but we first have pages and pages of him thinking back about the war and how he made drawings of the war and how he suffered. It's interesting, but I would have loved for these elements to have been dispensed throughout the story, not just cramped into chapter two all together. Show me what he's like, don't just tell me.
Is it all bad? No, it isn't. There is some lovely description in there about London, which made this London-lover excited to move back there. The characters are also realistic and filled with potential: each of them would be a good candidate to be the real main character of the story. And the announcement! I still don't know what it is, but the clues you get throughout the story definitely make you very curious to read part II.
This book could have been amazing if the author would have stuck with one of the characters. I would have loved to have learned more about Florence, the daughter who lives in Florence (this is not a typo), teaches Art History and is madly in love with the biggest prick out there. How did an English country girl get into that situation? I'll never know.
Sometimes less really is more.