Divorce and separation are among the greatest traumas we can experience. The Office for National Statistics says that 42% of marriages end in divorce, with half of those marriages ending within 10 years. By the 10th anniversary of moving in together, almost 40% of cohabiting couples will also have separated.
Consequently, there is a wealth of written material on relationship breakdown – both fictional and self-help.
Love Lose Live, a novel by mediator and family lawyer Mary Banham-Hall, is the latest to join the ranks. It is billed as a ‘contemporary and informed’ observation of divorce and family breakdown, and centres around the Bailey family, including three young children, various extended family members, and new partners – all dealing with the aftermath of a failed marriage. Beth believes she and her husband, Simon, are working through problems in their marriage. When he starts an affair, the already fragile union is shattered. As the situation deteriorates, the author views the consequences through the eyes of husband, wife and children.
New territory is charted as the book crosses the fiction/non-fiction divide. The characters are fictional but the story-telling and plot are clearly informed by the author’s 30-year career as a lawyer and mediator. There is an alternative ending too.
Author: Mary Banham-Hall
£8.95, Focus Mediation
The overarching theme is the positive way mediation can resolve disputes; you could not get more topical subject matter for anyone involved in the family justice system. In the afterword, the author explains the different stages of loss and grief which follow separation, citing examples from the story. She also sets out how divorces might be better handled by the profession in the future.
At a time when family lawyers are considering how best to ensure the voice of the child is heard, the thinking, actions and reasoning of the Bailey children are conveyed with some consideration. Beth and Simon can best be described as a middle-class Mr and Mrs Average – they snipe at each other but they are not truly outrageous in their behaviour. The message is ‘you do not have to be an extreme case to cause damage to each other and to your children’.
And as you would expect from a mediator – and perhaps reflecting most separations – there is no judgement as to who is in the right and in the wrong. Everyone loses to some extent.
Caitlin Jenkins is a partner, family lawyer, collaborative lawyer and mediator at Mills & Reeve