DISCLAIMER: Spoilers ahead. If you’d like to read this book it is available from Ultimo Press here: https://ultimopress.com.au/products/between-you-and-me/
Between You & Me explores a mix of interesting concepts that are becoming increasingly prevalent in our society. The story is about two young women, Elisabeth and Mari, who are just starting out in the world post-university and the pair meet a handsome older professor, Jack. Quickly the lines between friendship, love, and lust are tested through the different relationship dynamics and generational and socioeconomic differences of the characters. Perhaps the girls played at something they didn’t quite understand in a bid to assimilate into ‘adulthood’, and their friendship implodes.
Prior to reading, I did some research on Horton and her intention for this book. Horton was very honest about Between You and Me being about exploring generational differences, particularly for Australian adult examples, and discussing the dynamics of the thin line between friendship and desire. I believe it is because of this research, that for me whilst reading, the generational contrasts, subtle and major issues, were very obvious. Me being a young woman in my 20s, there were a few references that I did not immediately understand or recognise, and it is clear that Horton has done her research well.
The relationship between Elisabeth and Mari is very interesting. In the beginning, there were many instances where I found myself asking “Do these two have a thing for one another?” This is a theme continued throughout the story. As a reader, we switch between Elisabeth’s first-person point-of-view and Mari in third person. The whole back and forth between the two women’s point-of-view really set it up for a potential polyamorous relationship. Surprisingly, this is not how the story ended up. I discussed the book with a few impartial friends, and they also predicted that a poly relationship would occur. I feel this may have been an opportunity that passed Horton by, this dynamic of relationship is occurring more in our society and would have made an interesting exploration in regard to how a man from a different generation would have handled that.
Jack is a very profane character. In the beginning, he treated his relationship with Elisabeth almost like an experiment, keeping responsibility at arm’s length and letting Elisabeth guide the relationship, either ignoring or unaware of himself having more of the power dynamic between them as he resists her attempts to make their relationship public.
Jack has so many red flags – the unnecessary secrecy and imaginative ‘dirty’ image he put on his and Elisabeth’s relationship was exactly the type of thing he abhorred in Mari’s past. This is my opinion as someone who is more accepting and grew up in a society that supported these views, however, I can also understand that Jack did not feel supported by societal views in their relationship.
I am surprised Jack stepped up to support Mari after she became pregnant and accepted that responsibility after shunning it with Elisabeth. But at the same time, I’m not. He was so concerned about her past and the relationship she had with her teacher at the age of sixteen, Jack acted like a morally righteous man, and this is perhaps where his trouble with his relationship with Elisabeth stemmed.
In the end, he admitted and apologised for his affair with Elisabeth to Mari but still didn’t really accept responsibility. He wanted to run away from their problems and was so desperate to keep her he offered to marry her, despite openly admitting he didn’t love her and that the pair wouldn’t be together if their daughter hadn’t been conceived. He wanted to ‘start again’ but didn’t show any sign of change on his behalf, just the relationship and control he had over Mari. Fortunately for Mari, for the first time in her life, was comfortable enough, with her own income and money, to leave the pathetic coward of a man.
I think there were some good elements and some bad. Horton’s writing style really drew me in and the journey through the book was a breeze. I read it in a single afternoon, and it has certainly left me pondering about what could have been, where it all went wrong, but with a bad taste in my mouth. It’s not a very nice situation that they all fell into and it’s not nice to think about. I am pretty sure this is what Horton intended and it’s interesting for her to do it in such a quick read as Between You and Me. I’m interested in reading any future books she may write, perhaps something a little bit longer to explore the dynamics more.
The cover was also an issue. I showed the book to a few reader friends, and they stated it would not be a book they would pick up simply based off the look of it. I know we preach don’t judge a book by its cover, but it was a very depressing shade of green and though the photos make sense post-reading, they don’t remotely look like something nice or romantic. Again, this may have been intentional.
Overall, I think Horton achieved her goal and purpose for the book. It’s a coming-of-age story that shows the gaping generational differences, through a romantic heterosexual relationship and is focused on a friendship that runs deeper than that, similar to something like desire and toying obsession.