Book Review written by Ruth Langford and short interview with the author.
'Love Lose Live' is a window on divorce and family breakdown in our time. It is the mad, sad, bad and hilarious story of the Bailey family’s separation. We witness the grief, but also the recovery and moving on to new lives.
In a thought-provoking Afterword, Mary Banham-Hall explains with clarity and insight the different stages of loss and grief which follow separation. As a highly experienced family lawyer and mediator, she advocates resolution processes which focus on the needs of the whole family.
Love Lose Live is a novel by mediator and family lawyer Mary Banham-Hall and lifts the lid on family break-down and describes in raw, breath-taking detail the emotions each member of the Baily family experience. Cleverly written, with empathy shown for each family member, this novel takes the reader on a rollercoaster of emotions.
It’s abundantly clear that Mary Banham-Hall knows the subject matter inside out, her empathic approach to each family member means that the reader isn’t led down the route of being sympathetic to one parent or the other. Mary’s skilful writing and understanding of the intricacies of family break-down are demonstrated in the balance she provides when describing various situations that arise and the individual thoughts of each member of the Bailey family. Importantly, she gives each of the three children their own individual voices throughout the narrative of the novel, allowing each child to express clearly and eloquently their own perception of their parents’ separation and their individual wishes as to what they would like to happen in their lives. She describes the guilt and responsibility all three children take on as their own – and for a long time keep hidden and secret from their parents.
It would have been very easy to typecast all the main characters - the warring parents, the new partners, the children’s grandmother, the family friend, the work colleagues and to play out the same old scenarios we see time and time again in novels about family break-down. But not in LOVE LOSE LIVE, each character is given a unique identity, and the room to express their own thoughts, worries, anxieties, desires and perceptions of the situations they find themselves in – sometimes of their own making, often because of the actions of those around them.
I often found myself nodding in agreement at a piece of dialogue, or tutting in frustration; Mary describes common situations that many parents experience – but from the perspective of the parents, the children and the extended family and friends around them. She demonstrates how easy it is for one person to completely get the wrong end of the stick because common sense is so often warped by deep emotion.
The idea of an alternative ending provides the reader with a different ending of sorts – one that isn’t beneficial to anyone – especially the children, and one that isn’t a conclusion but simply the beginning of new problems and issues to deal with.
As we follow the Bailey family through their separation, the events that follow and lead on from the breakdown of their family unit, the reader too will share the roller coaster of emotions – the anger, the frustration, the utter despair, the fear, the numbness and in turn the emerging hopes and dreams, leading to a new life for the Baileys – it may not be the life they had once envisioned, but is life nonetheless, and one that is full of potential, love and promise.
Mary Banham-Hall has written far more than just a novel, LOVE LOSE LIVE is compulsive reading for anyone who works in family law or with parents after separation; she deviates away from the usual “man treats woman badly, woman meets nice man and they live happily ever after” and provides the reader with something that is far more representative of what a family endure during divorce – and the aftermath.
LOVE LOSE LIVE is a stunning debut novel, go and buy a copy today – I promise you will not be disappointed!
Q&A with MAry Banham-Hall
What inspired you to write the book?
The characters were like ear-worms and nagged me to give them a voice.
How much of your own professional experience did you draw on for the book?
A lot. I recognised common themes and problems and realised human instincts, especially to fight, make matters worse than necessary.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Yes. I hope people may understand that their motivations might be emotional and psychological, not rational and susceptible to being resolved by the law. Their conflict gets translated into legal argument, even though the costs of that process may exceed the value of the dispute and the dispute may not be legal.
Beth and Simon use a mediation service in the book; do you think more couples should attempt mediation to resolve outstanding issues?
Definitely. To parent children they need help with communication not its destruction through litigation. If they have a financial dispute, the judges should refer to mediation once the costs reach 20% of the value of the dispute. These steps would improve outcomes for families.
The book has an alternative ending, where Simon and Beth end up in Court regarding child arrangements; how important was it to you to provide this alternative (and to point out that it's not really a final resolution at all)?
It was a late addition, inspired by my wish to contrast the likely litigated outcome with the mediated end. People should know.
When did you find time to write?
I'd get an idea, perhaps driving or walking, then write it down and add it to the script as soon as I could. Late, early, between this and that.
What was the most enjoyable and least enjoyable part of writing?
I loved letting my imagination free reign; it was hard remembering to avoid the omniscient narrator and mixing up the points of view.
What book are you currently reading?
'What a Way to Go' by Julia Forster. It's the story of a twelve year old girl’s relationships and life with her divorced parents. It is at once funny and sad. The author and I are to be interviewed together on Radio Four's Woman's Hour on 4 February.
(You can listen to this interview via the BBC Radio iplayer)
About Mary Banham-Hall: Norwich-born Mary Banham-Hall graduated from UCL (Law) in 1975, was admitted as a solicitor in 1979, and became a mediator in 1998. She has spent the majority of her professional life helping couples navigate the trauma of separation and divorce. Mary now dedicates most of her time to mediating and running her company, Focus Mediation, which she set up in 1999, and which specialises in Alternative Dispute Resolution.
You can find out more about Mary, and Love Lose Live at her website - marybanhamhall.com
Love Lose Live is available from Amazon priced just £8.95