Gillian Greenwood
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Buy *Satisfaction* by Gillian Greenwood online

Gillian Greenwood
Shaye Areheart Books
320 pages
June 2007
rated 4 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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Satisfaction begins as Amy Marsham approaches the prestigious Harley Street offices of clinical psychologist Patrick McIlhenny. Amy has come to see Patrick to tell him she's been suffering "from an excess of happiness." At first, Patrick is taken back by Amy's admission, unused to seeing such pleasure in his particular working world, and he almost finds himself lost in a daydream as he begins to listen to her unusual confession.

Ten years ago, Amy's husband, James, had a series of sessions with Patrick. James, however, never told his wife about them, and now Amy wants to set the record straight by enquiring why her husband felt the need to visit Patrick in the first place, and also whether James actually told Patrick that he was "sick with joy" the day he married her.

In the hot, sticky summer of 1994, James and Amy appear outwardly to have the perfect marriage. James is certainly satisfied to step into his future with assurance; he is, it seems, destined for contentment and success. Meanwhile, his old schoolmate Archie helps James along, Archie admiring James without really comprehending the rules that he lives by.

Amy also has a friendship with Archie which seems to inexplicably waver on the threshold of something sexual. Amy is, of course, in love with James, but her focus is always on Archie, perhaps because he dares to challenge Amy's perception of happiness. When, in a sudden burst of love, Archie tells her that he may be ill with testicular cancer, the effect of the news on Amy is so upsetting that she can't help but feel betrayed by her emotions towards him.

Amy must also cope with a surprise pregnancy that threatens to take her life in an unplanned direction. For reasons that she can't quite grasp, she hasn't yet told James about it. Now with Archie sick, nothing is stable and everything has started to shift around. To add to her worries, Thea, her high-octane and competitive twin sister, has just returned from Los Angeles. A successful career woman, Thea seems to represent everything that Amy is not.

Thea is clearly nervous at returning to London and into the fold of her family. Impatient both to resume and change her life, she feels nervous at the prospect of seeing Amy again. She knows that if she were to settle back home and change direction, she would certainly have to resolve things with her sister, even though Thea has always felt that Amy "usually won out."

Amy and Thea's younger sister, Grace, a famous television soap opera actress, tries offering some comfort, but beneath Grace's bright ambition lays a feeling of uneasiness that she just can't seem to shake. She once had a crush on James, which makes her feel uncomfortable around Amy.

Presiding over all is Lucy Fielding, the family matriarch. The author of the Lifelines series of books, a sort of combination of domestic advice and positive thinking, Lucy is forced to deal with her own particular set of mid-life challenges. Haunted by the memories of her dead husband and an act of betrayal, she spends her days diverting her thoughts by devoting herself to the terraces of pots and flowerbeds that make up part of her vast rooftop garden.

Setting Satisfaction in contemporary London, author Gillian Greenwood writes with flashes of astonishing insight as she moves effortlessly between 1994 and 2004, threading her dual narratives together with the themes of love, fate and chance - be it through marriage and family or friendship.

While Grace becomes a sort of confidante for Amy, James fixates over his sexual fantasizing over Grace. In the interim, the hedonistic Archie, overtaken by physical and mental ambush, has finally run out of cash. The business he started with energy and optimism six years before with his best friend, Richard, has now gone bankrupt.

As the Fieldings hurtle through events at an almost ludicrous rate, they are forced to deal with the fallout from blame, guilt, and punishment, but in a rush of providence, it is the always-dependable Amy who rises above the furor, hopefully paving a way for happiness in a family that seems to have lost its footing in a world where dissatisfaction is a noticeable trait and where acquiring true happiness comes at a terrible price.

Click here for Michael Leonard's interview with Satisfaction author Gillian Greenwood

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at Michael Leonard, 2007

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