Review published on May 3, 2017.
Alice Martineau was a young woman who dreamed of becoming a singer-songwriter and a young woman who fulfilled that dream; she was also a young woman battling cystic fibrosis. A Song For Tomorrow is the fictionalisation of Alice’s story and, in the hands of Alice Peterson, it is not only a beautiful tribute but a beautiful piece of storytelling.
Peterson’s novel introduces the reader to Alice Martineau at the age of 26, when Alice’s life reaches a crossroads. Turning her back on the world of modelling, and with her condition worsening and her doctor’s warnings that she may not live to 30 ringing in her ears, Alice takes life by the scruff of its neck and decides to follow a long-held dream of becoming a singer. The music industry is notoriously tough, but Alice is tougher and she’s determined to prove all of the doubters wrong and get a record deal. She didn’t bank on falling in love on the way, but she can’t help how she feels about Tom and, as her music takes off and she grows ever closer to Tom, she has more to live for than ever before, and she finds herself desperately waiting for a triple transplant that may never come.
This is a truly special novel about a truly special woman. And what is so great about the book is that it introduces the reader to so much more than the world within its pages, not least of all Alice Martineau and her incredible life. Indeed, whether or not you’ve heard of Martineau before, the book makes you want to discover more about this inspirational woman, and thanks to the power of Google, not only her life story, but incredibly poignantly, her music are at your fingertips. Similarly, Peterson’s novel brings cystic fibrosis to the fore, giving readers insight into the incurable disease and the struggles those living with it face. Cystic fibrosis is perhaps not the most understood of diseases and its research and fundraising don’t have the greatest visibility, so if this book does nothing more than inform and help raise awareness of the illness and its charity it’s worth reading and sharing for that reason alone. Peterson doesn’t avoid depicting the harrowing realities of what those with cystic fibrosis go through, but she manages the most difficult scenes expertly.
Writing about illness can sometimes lead a novel to descend into a sort of ‘misery memoir’, just one long gloomy narrative, as indeed illness can be outside of fiction, but the skill of Peterson combined with the spirit of Alice Martineau creates something quite magical instead. This is a novel about illness, loss, and hardship but more than those things, it is a novel about love, family, ambition and making the most of every second. Yes, there will be tears, but wonderfully and unexpectedly, the book leaves the reader feeling warmed. And again this is testament both to writer and heroine. Martineau’s life provides Peterson with a brilliant tableau, and Peterson is one of the most sensitive and talented writers around, particularly in terms of taking these important, meaningful and often difficult topics and weaving them into beautifully emotional and romantic stories. Her novels are always heartfelt, memorable affairs and Alice Martineau’s story has lifted Peterson to new heights.
This book is a pleasure to read, and I don’t hesitate in saying if you read or give only one book this year, make sure it’s this one.
Jade Craddock 5/5
A Song for Tomorrow by Alice Peterson
Simon & Schuster UK 9781471153013 pbk Feb 2017