4 out of 4 stars
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No Fourth River is a novel by Christine Clayfield. Told in the first-person perspective, this story incorporates many themes including abuse, survival, challenges and, ultimately, personal growth. The author, who today is a successful businesswoman, felt inspired to write this book in the hope that she could offer some guidance and inspiration to others by sharing her life story. Perfectly described as ‘creative non-fiction’, this book blends factual life events with the writing style of a fictional novel. This makes the story both easy to read and engaging while imparting some inspiring and motivational messages.
No Fourth River starts with Christine receiving a call from her brother. Upon hearing that her mother is gravely unwell and in an induced coma, Christine rushes to the hospital to be by her mother’s side. While keeping vigil, Christine finds herself having flashbacks to her youth. The ensuing recollections take the reader on a journey through Christine’s life, from the age of five to the present.
Growing up with a physically abusive father, and then sent to boarding school where she is the subject of further bullying and intimidation, Christine longs to escape her life. Happiness is a concept she wants to experience since she had no idea what that emotion feels like. The hostile environment Christine is raised in is all that she knows and, therefore, considers this ‘normal’. To make matters even more difficult, Christine’s internally harboured stress sees her develop an embarrassing psychosomatic condition. In an attempt to cure this affliction, Christine’s parents then subject her to some barbaric medical treatments. Over the years, Christine transforms from a timid child into a rebellious teenager. With no money to her name and low self-esteem, Christine sets out to start a new life. Unfortunately, she finds herself in another abusive relationship; this time the victim of her husband’s violent temper. At what point does a person say, ‘Enough is enough’ and take that first step towards freedom and control over their life?
Christine finally reaches that point. Determined not to be a victim of her past, and even more resolute on breaking the destructive cycle of revictimisation, Christine starts the slow journey to self-discovery. In doing this, she teaches the reader the power of goal-setting, seeking opportunities, identifying unmet needs and, most importantly, believing in yourself and your ability to achieve things. Christine demonstrates the value of these life lessons in both a personal and business sense, making this book a valuable tool for multiple users.
I can not find anything I dislike about this book, however, there are several aspects of this novel I really appreciate. The way the book is compiled is quite unique. Firstly, unlike many stories about surviving abuse, I feel this book covers the complete lifespan of the author. I have found many comparable stories tend to go into depth about the traumatic experience and the decision to take control of life, but then only dedicate one or two chapters to detailing how this was achieved. As a result, I often feel I have missed half the story. I am delighted that Christine dedicates as much of her book to her road to success as she does about her childhood. She shows the reader that things do not automatically fall into place the moment you decide to take that step towards freedom. Instead, she demonstrates that achieving your goals takes hard work and a lot of belief in yourself and your abilities. Christine openly shares the challenges she faces and how they are overcome.
The second aspect I truly enjoy is how Christine provides the reader with closure about many of the characters they meet throughout the story. This is achieved by writing a chapter summarising what her friends and family are currently doing. To me, this makes the book feel complete.
Finally, to conclude the book, Christine outlines twelve steps towards taking control of your destiny and achieving happiness. This was a great finish to the book and nicely sums up the valuable lessons she has imparted during her story. It also provides easy access for future reference.
Overall, this book is well written. The entire novel only contains a couple of errors, making it exceptional quality. The writing is descriptive and flows perfectly. Christine’s memories are presented in perfect chronological order, while intermittently returning to the present to keep the reader informed of what is occurring between her flashbacks. The movement between these different timeframes is fluid and the transitions are easy to identify. Christine also displays a wonderful talent for describing details in a unique way that stays with the reader.
I have no hesitation in rating this book 4 out of 4 stars. It would appeal to a variety of readers, particularly those who appreciate a story of resilience and strength in the face of adversity. This story also provides encouragement for people wanting to work towards happiness or achieving goals. People interested in starting out in business could also benefit greatly from the valuable business tips contained throughout the book. Finally, while I would recommend caution to those who are sensitive to the subject of abuse, people finding themselves in such a situation may find this book offers them the inspiration they need to take that first step.
No Fourth River. A novel based on a true story.
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