At first I thought this book was everything I want in my chick-lit – three spunky heroines, a gorgeous setting, a narrowboat;
Picture taken by RHaworth, Creative Commons, Wikipedia
And two of the love interests were quite attractive.
& I liked the cleaning business idea. I’ve worked as a cleaner in the past and I do like seeing unglamorous jobs used in novels. We can’t all be fashion models after all. & I loved that the women were such supportive friends to each other.
The story starting coming a bit unglued in the middle. (but it was still a page turner) Originally May seemed to be the main character but all three were given [ love stories. May still seemed like the main character, but Sally (my favourite character) had a stronger love story and owned her sexuality. By around 80% Ms Fforde seemed to have lost interest in Harriet & Leo. I don’t blame her. I didn’t find Leo very interesting either!
So three characters as equal mains was too much for the writer to keep control of the story. The strands weren’t worked together equally. I had no trouble putting the book down when at 91% & frankly the ending was totally predictable – & not in a good way.
4★ beginning 3★ middle 2★ ending
As this is an early Fforde I may try another. I know she is a big Georgette Heyer fan and maybe she gets some of GH’s wit & deftness in her later books.
While this book in many ways is a classic beach read, (and I loved the cover) it also doesn’t shy away from covering more serious issues.
Lia and Anna are two friends running a seaside town cafe. This is shown to be hard work. It is ironic that often when you are living in a truly beautiful spot, you are working long hours, seven days a week, so have very little time to enjoy your surroundings!
Lia has a (very original) meeting with the handsome Jed – who has his own demands on his time. The book does take a more serious and genuinely frightening turn for the worse. This is not easy to handle in a novel but Hawkins does it well, and I was just about on the edge of my seat. One theme was a bit controversial for me, ( a relationship develops between a step parent and adult step child. I don’t know if I would be as tolerant as Lia.)
I’ve also knocked half a star off as I can’t be as optimistic as Lia and her family are about Anna’s recovery from anorexia. Because this is what Anna had, even though it is never openly stated.
I also liked showing that not all family relationships are loving ones and some times what you need from family is some distance!
Some of it may be “lost in translation” (for example, the word alone is used twice in one sentence at 28% & there is a joke about a character’s name earlier that I just didn’t get) but I made it to 30% without anything interesting happening (although I had hopes about the fortune teller)
Jonathan Grief reminds me (a lot) of Sheldon Cooper (Big Bang Theory) and Don Tillman (The Rosie Project) and I’ve already watched the TV programme for the former and read the book for the latter.
The previous novel I read New Orleans Mourning the author didn’t give any nuances in character development at all, let alone make any of them become likeable people. In Hand Me Down Ms Holman does this effortlessly and I really enjoyed the start of this story where a formerly spoilt princess returns to a home town, full of people who have good reason to not be able to stand her. Lots of witty lines and April and Tarn’s early relationship sparkles.
Unfortunately it all turns to custard.
Maybe Ms Holman had to reach a minimum book length. Maybe she was planning a series with either the lively Gudsell family or some of Tarn’s army buddies. Dunno, but suddenly there were way too many characters and the male lead started doing things that didn’t make sense at all. Thirty pages from the end, this book became so ridiculous that I had to force myself to finish.
My copy mentions a new book coming out in 2012. This doesn’t appear to have happened and the URL for Miss Holman’s website is dead & her authorial Facebook page was abandoned in 2018 (although translations of her books were released in the 2010s.) I’m guessing that like many NZ authors in the early 2010s that Michelle lost her publishing contract and decided not to continue. This is a pity, as I have heard good things about her other titles and may read them in the future.
I was a big fan of Judith Krantz‘s work and this was like Krantz on steroids!
The book didn’t really take off for me until Nick’s mother Eleanor started to investigate Rachel. The opening chapter in particular was both ponderous and predictable. But once Nicholas Young, scion of a Singapore family rich beyond the dreams of avarice, and his American girlfriend Rachel arrive in Singapore the novel turns into a crazy roller coaster, of ostentatious wealth, spending, snobbery and greed. I didn’t really warm to any of the huge caste of characters but thanks to Kwan including an elaborate family tree at the start, I had no trouble keeping them straight.
The ending after a few ridiculous twists, suddenly became a much darker story – way darker than I want in my chick lit. But I still couldn’t put the book down and I’m quite sure I will carry on with the series.
I watched the DVD last night (& it is so long since I have watched a DVD, that the staff instruction DVD from our 2017 government elections (I’m from New Zealand) was still inside! and in spite of a really stupid ending, I agree with anyone who says the movie is better. It streamlines things like the opening scene in a London hotel (endless in the book) and the scenery shots are stunning. I’d still read the book for the cultural explanations though. Movie 3.5★