The Loving Spirit by Daphne Du Maurier review

Perhaps due to reading some books on the Women’s Prize longlist this year, I found myself craving a good family saga, one which I could get lost in for hours. Coupled with Daphne Du Maurier being one of my favourite writers, her debut The Loving Spirit was the obvious choice. Based on real people, the novel follows four generations of the Coombe family: Janet, Joseph, Christopher, and Jennifer. It opens with Janet Coombe, a young woman in love with the sea. Despite her longing to climb onboard a boat and explore the waters, Janet instead marries Thomas, a local ship builder and starts a family. The next section follows her son Joseph – whom Janet had a particular affinity to – and the novel follows her descendants over the years.

Du Maurier has always excelled at characterisation and The Loving Spirit provides more evidence of that. Janet in particular was an incredibly engaging character; she was brimming with so much personality that it hard to dislike her. Through Janet the reader also explores the Cornish towns, a landscape readers of Du Maurier will be familiar with. She beautifully captures the busy ports and ship-building enterprises at the time, placing the reader right in the heart of the action. In her review of the novel Ann Willmore compares the depictions of Cornwall and Janet and Joseph to Wuthering Heights’ Yorkshire moors and lead characters. An interesting comparison, though it is Du Maurier’s descriptions of the sea and Janet’s relationship that I think more closely resemble the Brontes. Like Janet (and later Joseph) the sea is seen as this wild, passionate, relentless persona; a character in its own right. The mirroring of the natural world and the characters was well done.

However, some characters didn’t work for me. Whilst admittedly Christopher has the most satisfying storyline in the entire novel, a lot of the time I was quite bored during his chapters. The plot seems to flirt dangerously close to melodrama, especially combined with the dramatic, Heathcliff-esque way Joseph’s section ended. Given the novel started out with a young couple getting married in a small seaside town, The Loving Spirit veers into soap opera territory remarkably quickly. Despite the dramatic plot, Christopher didn’t seem to have much of a personality especially in comparison with his father and grandmother. It did feel as though Du Maurier enjoyed writing about the first two characters and the last one Jennifer, but Christopher was just the bridge to get to the final chapters. For such a dynamic plot, Christopher felt like a very weak character and he seemed to get lost in the narrative. Another character which didn’t work for me was Philip. He is the main antagonist in the story and that was it. Right off the bat, it was apparent he was ‘the bad guy’ and continued to be one-note throughout. He just simply wasn’t developed and felt like wasted potential, considering he is in conflict with his own family.

Is The Loving Spirit one of my favourite Du Maurier novels? No. It doesn’t have the twists and turns of Rebecca and Jamaica Inn nor the sweeping romance of Frenchman’s Creek. Nor even the sheer inventiveness of something like The House on the Strand. Yet the book is an enjoyable family drama, and an impressive debut. Seeds of those later works were already being sown and there are aspects of each of them in The Loving Spirit. It isn’t the first Du Maurier I would push into peoples’ hands, but if they are already a fan of hers I can definitely see them enjoying it. With interesting characters and beautiful descriptions of the Cornish landscape, it is hard not to get sucked in.

The Loving Spirit is published by Virago and you can find more information here.

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo review

Warning: there will be slight spoilers in this review which deal with disturbing subjects.

I’m probably the very last book blog to review Girl, Woman, Other but I have finally read it! Given the hype this book has had I’m sure everyone knows what this is about: twelve interconnected stories following twelve (mainly) black (mainly) women living in the UK. Through their eyes a story of  the nation is seen.

The stories are told through a stream of consciousness, which at points almost reads like poetry. It has a very lyrical quality to it and there were many passages that were beautifully written. This method also allows Evaristo to explore the characters more in depth, to capture their personalities which really allows the readers understand these people and their lives. Yet, whilst Evaristo deals with the small, personal things, she also tackles the UK at large, highlighting the experiences women of colour across decades. She delicately and effortlessly weaves both the personal and the political into the narrative. How the women interconnect throughout was also brilliantly done. It was fun to see characters reappear in other stories, and seeing events from multiple perspectives. The last two chapters were also excellent in wrapping up these women’s stories and created a satisfying conclusion.

Yet I did have some issues with the book. The most pertinent one is how Evaristo tackles some hard-hitting topics. One woman is gang-raped when a teenager, and another suffers from drug addiction. It is uplifting to see these women overcome their struggles and rise up and succeed, despite the hardships they suffered. And I understand that there are pivotal moments that make people change their lives for the better. But these topics are mentioned so briefly that it seems as though Evaristo is merely dismissing them. For example, the drug addiction and recovery is resolved in less than 3 pages, and the character beats her addiction whilst her family is on holiday. Really? Someone manages to curb their addiction within a month (we’re never told how long her parents away so could be less) with no help from anyone? It felt throwaway, as though Evaristo wanted this character to suffer, decided upon drug addiction but quickly abandoned it in favour of moving the plot forward. Rape was also dealt similarly to this. For such serious subjects, they’re dealt with so fleetingly I wondered if they were truly necessary. Those scenes and how they were handled left me with an unpleasant taste.

A slightly lesser criticism is that some of the characters sounded identical to one another. As mentioned before, the stream of consciousness was a really effective technique, but a lot of the word choice and the flow of the language were similar across the stories. This made the characters seem less individual and blurred into one. If the names hadn’t been repeated throughout, I probably would have struggled to remember who the narrator was. I should point out that this doesn’t apply to all of the characters, some personalities truly shone through just sadly others faltered.

It is obvious why Girl, Woman, Other has achieved the enormous success and critical acclaim it has. How Evaristo has constructed the novel is brilliantly done, and she manages to encapsulate the black, female experience living in Britain really well. There were just some things that irked me in the narrative which stopped me from completely loving the book. Some of the subjects brought up were not dealt with sufficiently; the drug abuse still baffles me. If you’re going to deal with serious topics, then perhaps give them more than two pages in the book. Plus some of the voices could have been stronger. Overall I did like Girl, Woman, Other but don’t love it as much as others.

Girl, Woman, Other is published by Penguin and you can find more information here.

The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy review

When people think of comfort reads I doubt many would reach for Thomas Hardy. Yet that is exactly what The Mayor of Casterbridge is to me. It’s my favourite Hardy novel; one whose ridiculous plot never fails to amuse me yet that also lets me have a good cry when I need it. The eponymous mayor is Michael Henchard, who as a young man sold his wife and baby daughter whilst in a drunken stupor. Fast forward 18 years and Henchard is now a successful merchant and mayor; he is also now teetotal. His wife and daughter, Susan and Elizabeth, show up in Casterbridge looking for him, though Elizabeth has no idea he is her father. Over the course of the novel their lives will change irrevocably.

A lot of criticism directed at The Mayor of Casterbridge has to do with the plot; mainly the sheer amount of incidents crammed into one story is ludicrous. It is obvious that this was originally a serial and Hardy was adding a new plot twist into each episode. Despite this, I do think some of those twists work; particularly the ones involving Michael and Elizabeth. They help to build to that final, emotional climax between the father and daughter, a scene that always gets me. Every single time. But some plot developments obviously don’t work. Two that instantly spring to mind is how the love triangle Elizabeth finds herself in is resolved, and how Hardy handles the character of Newson. I won’t go into details for fear of spoilers but those in particular grate on me. The first one is just casually dismissed without a second thought, and the second is so unrealistic it borderlines on being funny. I can’t help but think that people who love soap operas would adore The Mayor of Casterbridge.

Despite the plot, the main reason the novel is my favourite Hardy work is the characters. If those characters weren’t as strong as they were I would probably have DNF’ed it. Elizabeth in particular really resonates me, and did when I first picked the book up. She has a fascinating and satisfying character arc; watching her grow from being self-reliant on her parents to becoming more independent was a joy. As a modern reader, I would have liked her story to have ended differently but overall I still think she is a well-developed character, and one I could have easily read more of. But the main draw is Henchard himself. The stupidity of the plot aside, the novel is really about him coming to terms with his past and attempting to make amends. He is a beautifully written character. His actions throughout are questionable at best (reprehensible at worst), yet as a reader you are rooting for him. He attempts to be a better person and you see that and feel sympathy for him. Of course, this being a Hardy novel, you know this will end in tragedy, making the sadness all the greater whilst reading. You want him to succeed but know he will not.

Hardy excels in character building throughout all his novels, but The Mayor of Casterbridge is his best in my opinion. Perhaps because the plot is so convoluted that you need the strength of the characterisations to pull the reader in. The characters, particularly Elizabeth and Michael, are fully-fleshed out and their development over the course of the narrative was a delight to read. Despite the troubles they’ve either caused or been through, you still want the best for them. There’s also this idea of second chances, of trying to be a better person than you were before, that still resonates to this day, and I think that is also why The Mayor of Casterbridge is so powerful. In some ways it is incredibly old-fashioned but in this regard it still feels relevant; people can read it and understand Henchard’s longing to better himself. Is The Mayor of Casterbridge for everybody? No, absolutely not – I know plenty of people who loathe it. Yet it is my favourite Hardy because of the strong characters, its relevance to today, and of course that ending.

The Mayor of Casterbridge is published by Penguin and you can find more information here.

Charlotte Gray by Sebastian Faulks review

As tomorrow is the 75th anniversary of VE Day, I decided to reread a favourite novel of mine set during the Second World War: Sebastian Faulks’ Charlotte Gray which, given the popularity of the novel and 2001 film adaptation starring Cate Blanchett, most readers probably know of. Charlotte works as a receptionist in London when she meets and falls in love with Peter Gregory, a pilot. Their romance is short-lived however as Peter goes missing over France, believed to have been shot down. As Charlotte had spent a lot of her childhood in France and can speak the language fluently, she joins the Special Operations Executive (SOE). Now an agent, she is parachuted into France, where she must aid the French Resistance and find her missing lover.

Despite the plot sounding quite adventurous and action-driven, the novel is more of a character study. It bears some similarities in this regard to Faulks’ other famous work Birdsong though that book is partially set during World War One; despite the horror of these events Faulks ultimately focuses on the characters, making the warfare almost secondary. Certainly here the onus is on Charlotte: it is her name in the title, she whom we follow through the narrative. And Faulks does a brilliant job of bringing her to life. He spends a lot of time developing her personality, her strengths and weaknesses, and watching her change throughout the course of the narrative was a joy. You become invested in her as a character and are rooting for her at the end. That’s not to say the secondary characters are underdeveloped; the reader is given snippets of their lives and motivations for their behaviour. But the core of the novel is Charlotte and because she is a fully-fleshed character that the reader can believe in, the book works.

Faulks’ love of research, and the sheer amount of time he spends on it, is well-known, and is also apparent in Charlotte Gray. It means the novel is not just an entertaining story, but a fascinating glimpse into this period of time. In particular, the training course that potential SOE agents undertake was interesting to me: it wasn’t something I knew much about beforehand but it really captured my attention. But even small details like clothing, leisure pursuits, even day to day activities like bathing all felt very in-keeping with the time period. It is these small details that help create the atmosphere and feel of the world which help to draw the reader in. Certainly in Charlotte Gray you become a part of this landscape; there’s no misplaced detail jarring the reading experience.

As mentioned before, if you’re looking for a war based thrill ride this isn’t the book for you. Whilst there are scenes of violence, they are few and far between; Faulks seems to focus on smaller events than big, bombastic ones. This lets the characters come to the fore and the novel excels in their development, especially the eponymous Charlotte.  It is them that ultimately make the book engaging, and impossible to put down. As this is my second time reading it, it was also fun picking up on the small allusions of what was about to come, making the reread even more satisfying. Combining drama and humour, Faulks has created a fascinating historical novel – also a well-developed female lead who highlights the part women played during the war, a part that shouldn’t be forgotten.

Charlotte Gray is published by Vintage and you can find more information here.

Sasha and his Red Leash by Yossi Lapid review

Sasha is a lucky little pup! He takes a long walk each morning, he gets a healthy treat when he comes back and Big Boss Bob, his loving owner, plays ball with him.
Sasha also keeps a personal diary which was a secret until now!
But Sasha’s life is not perfect! In this diary entry, Sasha reveals just how much he dislikes his red leash! Big Bob insists, however, that the leash is needed to keep everybody safe.
Will Bob and Sasha find a good solution to Sasha’s troubled relationship with his leash?

Sasha and the Red Leash is a great children’s picture book that helps to teach younger readers how to take care of their pets. Lapid’s story is simple but sweet, and the rhyming scheme is highly effective. Not only does the rhymes make it more entertaining for small children, but it also injects some humour into the narrative. There are some interactive elements in the story as well, which really help to engage children and let them be a part of the plot. Overall, the structure and writing style used clearly articulates the book’s main theme, as well as helping to make the storyline fun.

Sasha is also such a lovable character it is hard not to get drawn into the story, and younger readers will definitely enjoy reading about his escapades. This is the first book in a series, so it will be interesting to see the adventures Sasha goes on in later stories. Sasha’s relationship with his owner, Big Boss Bob is also endearing to read about, and hopefully explored more in the future books.

Yet, the main highlight was the illustrations by Joanna Pasek. They are stunning, some of the best picture book images in recent years. Pasek has created these beautiful watercolour paintings, filled with tiny details that truly make the story come to life. Her illustrations really complement Lapid’s writing, making the book come together as a whole.

Sasha and the Red Leash is an excellent picture book for children. It has a great theme and storyline, as well as brilliant writing and gorgeous illustrations. This is a wonderful book to teach children how to look after a dog and the responsibilities that come with having a pet, and a must read for animal lovers everywhere.

This review first appeared on Reedsy Discovery. 

How We Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee review

Jing-Jing Lee’s debut How We Disappeared opens with one of the main characters Wang Di reflecting on the different stories about her birth. This opening segment highlights one of the main themes of the book; this notion of storytelling, and the stories we tell ourselves and each other. That events may be viewed differently depending on who is telling the narrative. This is also seen through the other main character, twelve year old Kevin who has set out on a mission to discover the secret his grandmother has hid for decades.

Lee tackles the idea of storytelling with aplomb, not only inscribing it to individuals but societies as a whole. We witness how Wang Di is treated after the Second World War has ended and how she is treated in a complex designed for the elderly later in life; both timelines serve to show societal attitudes towards women like Wang Di, how a narrative is written against them. Yet as a reader we also see the horror Wang Di suffered during wartime and her experiences afterwards. This makes the novel tragic; seeing how individuals are misunderstood by their community. Lee handles this topic with great care, and it is woven into the plot so well that the reader never feels the author is condescending.

Lee also handles the isolation and loneliness associated with this excellently; her treatment of mental health is sensitive and delicately handled yet equally doesn’t shy away from darker moments. The chapters regarding Wang Di’s suffering during the war is similar to this. There are passages which are beautifully written, and use some fascinating imagery, yet Lee evocatively recreates wartime Singapore, without hiding all the horrors that happened. It is a difficult balance to find; trying not to sensationalise warfare whilst not downplaying it, and Lee succeeds in this.

The characters themselves are also well-developed. Wang Di is such a tragic yet stoic figure that you can really sympathise with her. Watching how she copes through traumatic events, and how her character changes was saddening to read but also compulsive. You wanted to keep reading on; you wanted to see her happy. Kevin as well had a great character arc, and seeing him grow up was a delight. Comparisons can be made between his childhood and Wang Di’s – not only due to different timeframes but their gender  – and Lee flits between them effortlessly, letting the reader make those comparisons. Throughout the whole novel, she never overexplains and simply lets the reader come to their own conclusions

I was sad to hear How We Disappeared didn’t make the shortlist yet not surprised. It isn’t a particularly experimental novel and despite the time-jumping between the 1940s and 2000s, it is a fairly straight-forward story. Yet this never bothered me; I was swept up by the characters and the language and the sheer effective of the structure. Singapore in the 1940s isn’t a topic I’m familiar with and this novel has spurred me to discover more. Fans of historical fiction will enjoy How We Disappeared; it is also a timely reminder why we shouldn’t let voices and stories from the past simply fade away.

How We Disappeared is published by Oneworld and you can find more information here.

The Mountain and the Goat by Siamak Taghaddos review

Here’s some water. Here’s some bread.
Do as you wish, but plan ahead!
When you arrive at a mountain and a singing goat gives you some water and bread, how do you make the most of it? Find out how small, everyday actions can lead to bigger and better results in this modern-day fable that will inspire resourcefulness and take-action mentality.
Written by a US Small Business Association’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year, this short journey of bartering and progression will plant the seed of entrepreneurship in children.

Taghaddos wrote this picture book, inspired by a Persian poem, to encourage children to be resourceful and to spark an entrepreneurial spirit. He certainly gets this message across; in less than 20 pages the narrator has bartered for all kinds of things. He wastes no time diving into the story and the main themes shine through. Zachary Cain’s illustrations are nicely done and compliment the storyline. They don’t take over the page or overwhelm the reader; they are actually very sweet drawings.

The writing is fairly straight-forward, as one can expect for a children’s book. However, the actual style confused me. At the beginning the story is told through rhyme, yet this is quickly dropped. It is unclear if this was an intentional choice to switch between styles, but it was a bit jarring. If the narration had been told entirely in the same style it would have felt a lot more cohesive. Also, the ending was quite sudden. The plot never built towards it; there was no sense of why the narrator was swapping goods. The narration just stops and that’s it. That also threw me as I was expecting the narrator to reflect on what they’ve learned, or even wrap up the storyline. The ending was fairly abrupt.

Overall, The Mountain and the Goat was an OK children’s book. Taghaddos’ theme really hits home, and Cain’s illustrations are a nice addition. The writing style could be changed slightly to make the narration stronger, and the plot as a whole could be expanded. At under 20 pages it is a short read, and one is left thinking the book could be longer. Also the ending just didn’t work for me.

This review was originally published on Reedsy Discovery.

Boxer, Beetle by Ned Beauman review

As I have been slightly slacking in my attempts to reread books, I picked up Ned Beauman’s Boxer, Beetle, his debut which was first published in 2010. The book is told in two timelines; present day and the 1930s. In the present we have Kevin Broom, an avid collector of Nazi memorabilia who stumbles across a murder scene and is forced to solve the crime. He also discovers a letter writing by Hitler to entomologist Philip Erskine, thanking him. Flashing back to the 1930s, we follow Erskine, who also has an interest in eugenics, and his relationship with the Jewish boxer Seth Roach.

It is hard to pin Boxer, Beetle down. It has elements of drama, thriller, comedy, romance, and mystery, all wrapped up in the narrative. Yet it doesn’t feel contrived; the plot flows between the genres naturally and Beauman is adept at handling all the different storylines. At first they all appear completely unrelated, but Beauman successfully manages to tie them all together by the end. The mystery in the present day sections was a bit more predictable than the one in the 1930s; I guessed the outcome correctly when I first read it and upon a reread it is painfully obvious. But the 30s sections still held many surprises, and those passages I really enjoyed. They were both funny and intriguing, making me want to read more.

Every single character in the novel is reprehensible; making the plot all the more thrilling. Because the characters are all morally ambiguous, you are never certain what their true intentions are or if they’re telling the truth. This gives the whole book a sense of mystery and unease; never quite knowing what the characters are thinking or what they’ll do next. This unpredictability lends itself really well to the plot. In particular, the relationship between Erskine and Roach was really well-handled, and it was a joy watching those characters develop over the course of the novel.

I remember really enjoying Boxer, Beetle when it was released a decade (!!) ago and it still remains a lot of fun on a second read. One of the reviews on the cover likens it to Quentin Tarantino, and I can definitely see why. Not just because of the plot and the structure of the book, but there were moments that were cinematic. You could easily picture them on the big screen. It is incredibly well-written and it is surprising this is a debut, considering how accomplished it is. Whilst the humour and the much darker, grittier scenes will not be for everyone, definitely give Boxer, Beetle a try if you have not already.

Boxer, Beetle is published by Sceptre and you can find more information here.

The Mirror & the Light by Hilary Mantel review

Having just finished reading The Mirror & the Light this morning after binge reading it over the weekend, I have a lot of feelings about the novel. It is the final part in Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall trilogy, which has charted the life of Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s chief minister. Here the novel opens in May 1536, just as Anne Boleyn is executed and follows Cromwell from his appointments as the Lord Privy Seal and later Lord Great Chamberlain until his own death in 1540.

The Mirror & the Light, very much like its predecessors, is incredibly rich. The writing is  evocative; easily transporting the reader to the King’s court. Mantel manages to capture the sights, sounds, and smells of this world and the reader gets sucked into it all. The opening chapter is the immediate aftermath of Anne Boleyn’s execution, so you are plunged straight into the action and plot is nicely developed throughout the entire novel. The research gone into the whole trilogy is incredible. Whilst Mantel does use creative licence in terms of characterisation, it all feels very authentic and it never strikes a false note. Even small details like what the people at court ate has been researched and carefully rendered.

The slight criticism I have of the writing style is the abundance of foreshadowing. Oh, the foreshadowing. It is apparent from the first couple of chapters and Mantel insists on clobbering her readers with it. It never created a particular atmosphere or feeling; it wasn’t done subtly so rereads would become richer in seeing Cromwell’s fate unfold. Mantel just seemed to be constantly reminding her readers that this is the last in the trilogy and you know Cromwell will die, don’t you? Yes, yes we do. So the foreshadowing feels like a pointless addition, and an irritating one on top of that.

Despite the constant foreshadowing, the main reason I preserved with the novel is due to the characters. All of them are brilliantly drawn, in particular Cromwell himself. He is morally ambiguous and does questionable deeds; but he is so charismatic and witty yet also vulnerable that is hard not to be fascinated by him. He’s an incredibly well-written character, one that has been fully-fleshed over the course of the trilogy, and one that lingers in the mind long after the book finished. Henry VIII has always been an interesting historical figure for me, and here I really enjoyed the scenes with him. When one of his advisors dares to contradict or displeases him, there is a visceral reaction; you know what he is capable of, and the reader is left waiting for when he finally turns against them. Also the fact that you are never really inside his head, you never hear his thoughts apart from what he says, makes him a more threatening and volatile character. The scenes between him and Cromwell, particularly in the latter half of the novel, were excellent.

Before it was even released The Mirror & the Light attracted a lot of hype, and it has also received rave reviews from critics and readers alike. It is certainly obvious why, Mantel’s writing and characterisation are for the most part brilliant. Certainly the whole trilogy has been executed (no pun intended) amazingly. Yet, I am inclined to agree with The New Yorker review which called the novel ‘bloated’. With hindsight there were segments which could have been shortened or removed altogether. But both this and my gripes about the use of foreshadowing are only minor; yet they do make me reluctant to reread the novel. Will it make the Women’s Prize shortlist later this month? I think it has a very good chance.

The Mirror & the Light is published by 4th Estate and you can find more information here

The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo review

Claire Lombardo’s debut novel The Most Fun We Ever Had follows the lives of the Sorenson family. The novel opens at elder daughter Wendy’s wedding in her parent’s garden, and then quickly flashes both backwards and forwards, going from 1975 to 2016. We see how Marilyn and David met, their daughters being born, and how the girls’ lives unfold throughout the years.

The characters are well-fleshed out, and the chapters are shown through multiple perspectives which allows their personalities to shine through. The numerous voices also means that events are seen from different angles, so the reader understands the emotion and actions of each person involved, and where characters misunderstand one another. It helps to make the Sorensons more sympathetic, as certainly some of their choices could appear baffling otherwise. Yet it felt as though Lombardo focussed more on certain characters than others. For example, the relationship between Wendy and Violet, the second daughter, was explored in depth. A lot of time is given to them, and certainly their voices are the ones that are remembered when the book finished. But that means others are neglected. The main victim of this is Grace, the youngest sister. Whilst she does make appearances, she is often side-lined and isn’t given the same amount of time as her siblings. I often forgot about her; she wasn’t a part of the main storyline. She seems to be in the narration only as a plot device towards the end, and other than then she feels like a throwaway character.

The plot was also a bit of a mixed bag. At first it was a very enjoyable read; I like family dramas and some of the characters were dynamic enough to keep me interested. Yet at some point the novel tips into melodrama and it just became exhausting. There was always something happening to someone in this family, and the constant stream of new plot points made each one less impactful. The reader is never given time to digest and reflect on these new developments, because there will be another one in twenty odd pages. I remember thinking at certain scenes: how are all these things happening to one family? It became too ridiculous, and I was becoming bored by it. This could also be due to the fact the novel is over 500 pages; a length I don’t think it deserves. The themes were well-established halfway through and the plot was losing steam around that point (perhaps a reason why for dramatic events constantly being introduced?), making the last third of the novel seem unnecessary.

The Most Fun We Ever Had does have a lot of good qualities. When she focuses on characters and their relationships, Lombardo truly excels; the Sorensons were really engaging for the most part. If people are fans of melodrama then maybe they will like the plot; I just found it becoming too ridiculous that it stopped being fun to read.  I would have preferred less dramatic plot points and maybe more character development, especially with figures like Grace. Also the length seems a tad excessive; the novel overstays its welcome. Perhaps I felt this way because I read another Women’s Prize nominee, Red at the Bone, which also deals with family saga and is less than half the length. But this felt it could have been shorter. Definitely an interesting longlist nominee and I can’t wait to hear more thoughts on it.

The Most Fun We Ever Had is published by Weidenfeld & Nicholson and you can find more information here