Catherine and James’ friendship starts in a heady rush of connection, with endless conversations about their hopes and aspirations – a future shining with possibility in 1990s Dublin. James wants to be an artist and Catherine is just glad of the chance to reinvent herself at college, far from the restrictions and judgements of home.
But things become very complicated when the charm of their camaraderie becomes a see saw of neediness and resilience, intensity and obsession. Belinda McKeon’s second novel is aptly named; it’s a luminous study of love, with all its bruises, balms and vulnerabilities.
Tender by Belinda McKeon (Picador, £14.99)