Once by Morris Gleitzman

*This review contains spoilers*

once morris gleitzman

When Felix sits down to an uninspiring bowl of soup he is stunned to discover a whole carrot. He hides it in his pocket for fear of causing a riot. This is how the extraordinary Once begins. An English A Level teacher gave me this to read to provide an alternative insight into war literature. This is one of the few books that nearly made me cry and I was curious to know how it would affect me ten years later.

Written by Morris Gleitzman for older children Once takes place in wartime Poland and is told entirely from the point of view of the young Felix. Set in 1942 Felix has been kept away from the war until now. His parents left him in the care of Mother Minka, in a Catholic orphanage in the mountains of Poland. It is when they pray “to God, Jesus, the Virgin Mary, the Pope and Adolf Hitler” that the reader knows that this will be a different type of story and that for Felix, the world he left behind three years and eight months ago is has almost been erased.

Felix’s imagination serves a barrier between himself and the horrors of the world. It is his imagination has protected him from so much over the years and his ability to conjure stories from thin air saves Felix and his friends over and over again. Early into his journey Felix hears gunfire and assumes the Nazis must be hunting rabbits. The spare prose makes the reader shiver. “Look at that. The river has suddenly turned red. Which is a bit strange, because the sunset is still yellow. The water’s so red it almost looks like blood. But even with all those gunshots, the hunters couldn’t have killed that many rabbits. Could they? No, it must just be a trick of the light”.

The reader has so much more knowledge than Felix does that at times this book is heart breaking. His path through life evokes fear in the reader, and yet for the most part he does not feel the same fear. At times Felix sees awful things. Gleitzman should be credited for not shying away from the darkness of the period. Seeing these things through the eyes of the child strips away the history and politics and shows them for what they are.

When Felix finds a man and a woman lying dead, still in their nightclothes, their house aflame, he reasons that they must have been Jewish booksellers who put up a fight to protect their books. Their young daughter Zelda however has survived. She joins Felix on his journey to find his parents. They end up joining a convoy being marched into the ghetto. Here they meet other children hiding from the clear outs. Looked after by Barney, a dentist who survives by treating the soldiers in the ghetto, they carve out a life in a cellar, only venturing out after curfew. When Felix has the chance to save himself he chooses instead to join his friends. This is how he finds himself being loaded onto a train that will carry him and hundreds of others to their deaths.

Felix does not die, nor does Zelda. They are some of the few to escape. Barney stayed behind with the children who didn’t want to take their chances and jump. When they hug goodbye Felix feels the needles in Barney’s pockets. It is here that he realises that if needs be Barney will inject the children with an anaesthetic that if used in sufficient quantities will put them into a sleep they will not awaken from in order to protect them from the advancing horror. This is portrayed as a moment of mercy and kindness, as a man is prepared to go to his death in order to spare the children any suffering. Here Felix finally understands what sort of world he is living in. It may sound strange but this is beautifully portrayed and leads up to the books final few lines, “I’ll never forget how lucky I am. Barney said everybody deserves to have something good in their life at least once. I have. More than once.”

It is important to emphasise that Once is suffused with hope and moments of friendship and kindness. Although deeply sad Gleitzman also shows how imagination can save, how unlikely friendships can grow in the most unusual circumstances and how, in the form of dentist Barney, humanity and decency will always survive. Once also suggests that innocence can be lost, not just from children but also from adults. A man who once lived alongside Felix’s family has become too scared to help the boy when he returns to his home village. A Nazi officer takes a story home for his young daughter the same day that he ushers Jewish children into trains to be taken away. A young girls parents are murdered by Polish partisans. The ending is a wonderful mix of the hope, fear and devastating sadness.

Although technically a children’s book there is much here for adults too, who will approach Felix’s story with the knowledge of the atrocities and heartbreak that boys like Felix witnessed, but will perhaps still be surprised and uplifted by the hopeful ending, and the feeling that as life continues, there is always a chance.

 

Once, Morris Gleitzman, Puffin, 2005, Australia

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Days Without End by Sebastian Barry Review

Image result for days without end

“we feel the lure of the unknown future distil into our bones”

It is difficult to know where to begin with such an exceptional novel. Days Without End, the 2016 Costa Book of the Year award winner, continues the success of celebrated Irish author Sebastian Barry.

This is part of his series dedicated to charting the fictional lives of two Irish families; the Dunnes and the McNulty’s. This book can be read alone. It is the first novel by Barry that I have read and he has been added to my list of authors to catch up on. Within the first few pages one realises why this is such a feted novel. Days Without End is narrated by Thomas McNulty, a Sligo born American, who finds himself caught up in the shifting landscape of the birth of modern America. He experiences the wars with Native Americans and then the Civil War. In between all of this he flees the Great Famine, finds his soulmate, dances with miners, graces the stage and raises a family of his own before going back out to live the life of a soldier. His thoughts on what it is to be a soldier are fascinating.

“We’re strange people, soldiers stuck out in wars. We ain’t saying no laws in Washington. We ain’t walking on yon great lawns. Storms kill us, and battles, and the earth closes over and no one need say a word and I don’t believe we mind. Happy to breathe because we seen terror and horror and then for a while they ain’t in dominion. Bibles weren’t wrote for us nor any books. We ain’t maybe what people do call human since we ain’t partaking of that bread of heaven. But if God was trying to make an excuse for us He might point at that strange love between us”.

McNulty’s voice feels natural and believable providing the route into his thoughts and feelings. The novel does require some concentration as the language flows from McNulty’s mouth and mind. This carries the reader along but it also means that this is not a book that can be easily picked up and then put down again. Instead each chapter has to be consumed whole. It is through McNulty’s voice that Barry gets deep into the skin of McNulty, and through him into the forming body of a new nation.

“Time was not something then we thought of as an item that possessed an ending, but something that would go on forever, all rested and stopped in that moment. Hard to say what I mean by that. You look back at all the endless years when you never had that thought. I am doing that now as I write these words in Tennessee. I am thinking of the days without end of my life. And it is not like that now.” From these lines one can glimpse at how the language moves from the earthy reality of soldiering to philosophical moments captured between battles; in nights spent freezing and starving.

McNulty has an attitude informed by his early childhood in Sligo. The moments that touch on his life during The Famine and emigration are harrowing and make the past feel as though it can be touched. He tries not the think back on The Famine or the ship where he was “worth nothing”. The silence around the Irish in America, and the way in which they start to define themselves as American, speaks volumes about the horrors that had been left behind in Ireland. “In the army you meet a dozen men a month came from Ireland but you never hear them talk about it much. You know a Irishman because he has it writ all over him”. The reader learns that McNulty lost most of his family, watching them starve to death without hope or dignity. He travels by coffin ship to Canada where he and his fellow refugees are held in quarantine. The short description of this is powerful and sticks in the throat. After such tragedy he holds close any scraps of happiness, softness and love are available in such an inhospitable world. This imbues the narrative with a sense of awe and wonder.

Those who have already read this book will have noticed one glaring omission from this review. There is a love story, a friendship, that runs throughout Days Without End. It is delicately written and quietly beautiful. I am very keen not to spoil it for other readers. Many other reviews such as Harriet at Shiny New Books have touched up this while also investigating the ideas of personal identity that play an important role in the novel. For those who are interested in reading further on the subject here is an article from The Guardian, which although not specifically about Days Without End, is still worth reading. Personal and national identity, formulation and actualisation are timely topics. Importantly they feel natural, not as though they have been shoehorned in. This is also important when it comes to the representation of Winona, a young Native American girl who becomes a significant part of McNulty’s story.

Days Without End also has the feeling of a Western. Alongside the Irish trying to make their way in this new country early in the novel are clashes between Native Americans and the frontiersmen trying to branch out and control this new, often hostile and threatening terrain. The interactions between these two groups are frequently horrific and deceitful. “There were stories everywhere of rapes and robberies and sudden and vicious visits on out-of-the-way premises. Unless you were a witness how could you that what was true”. With the benefit of history however the reader knows not only the fate of the Native American tribes but also that this conflict will soon be usurped by another; the Civil War.

The novel is frequently very violent yet is line by line with a soft dreamlike quality that makes this such an unusual novel. Days Without End is surely one of the best novels of the year and deserving of a place on every bookshelf.

 

 

 

 

Jo Brand Can’t Stand Up For Sitting Down

Jo Brand Can’t Stand Up For Sitting Down Review

Can’t Stand Up For Sitting Down is the follow up to Brand’s successful Look Back in Hunger. Although I missed the first instalment of her life story I have read and enjoyed each of her novels and love Jo Brand as a person and comedian. With each novel her writing has become increasingly fluid and engaging. So how did Can’t Stand Up For Sitting Down measure up?

The book begins with an author’s note stating that it is more a collection of memoirs rather than a transitional chronological life story. I probably should have paid more attention to this as it would have helped me to contain my expectations.

Brand picks up the story from Look Back and tells the reader about her journey through comedy clubs, open mic spots, festival and finally TV. As she tours she picks out the best and worse of each situation to share with the reader. It improved as it went along and increased in detail. The first section about gaining prominence on the comedy scene lacked detail and contained too many lists and point by point paragraphs. Although the title of this and Look Back both reference size and food there is little of this mentioned in here except for a retelling of a very funny run in Jo had with TV stylist Trinny and Susannah. This section alone made the book a worthwhile read.

Perhaps one of the best recommendations is that I have already had several people asking to borrow the book. It seems there is a Jo Brand fan around every corner. She guards her family’s privacy, with only a few images of her husband and daughters. There seemed to be a constant difficulty here in that she wanted to write a book but without giving much of herself away. There are moments where she reminisces on holidays with a group of fellow comedians which gives just enough information to peak ones interest but too little to actually tell you anything.

I really enjoy her sense of humour and would have enjoyed the chance to get to know her better. One probably gets to know more of her from her documentaries, game show appearances and charity work with this book being a nice accompaniment.

 

Jo Brand, Can’t Stand Up For Sitting Down, Headline Review, April 2011, Paperback.

Holly Madison: The Vegas Diaries

First Written for Shiny New Books

Holly Madison: The Vegas Diaries. Romance, Rolling the Dice, and the Road to Reinvention

 

Holly Madison is best known for her seven years at the Playboy Mansion and for her position as Hugh Hefner’s ‘Number One’ girlfriend. With The Vegas Diaries, the second instalment of her autobiography, she sets out to change perceptions of herself and her work to become the person she always wanted to be.

The Vegas Diaries is the follow up to the surprise number one bestseller Down the Rabbit Hole (reviewed here) from the former playboy model and girlfriend, in which she made it clear that she did not want to do a kiss and tell and had only entered this process in order to set the record straight. She kicked off her new life with a stint on Dancing with the Stars before going on to the lead role in burlesque show Peepshow. Here she took on the mantle of lead with aplomb, going on to revitalise the Bo Peep inspired show making it one of the most popular spots on the strip while starring as the lead for the longest ever time, truly making the show her own. Her own reality show soon followed. Madison candidly navigates Las Vegas’s social and dating scene. Her last memoir followed an Alice in Wonderland theme, and  for this one it is the Wizard of Oz; each chapter beginning with a quote and the roughly central theme of finding oneself in Oz before finding home.

The first way in which she sets out to do this is through burlesque. Having had a love affair with the art form for many years she finally has the chance to dive head first into the genre. Taking on the headline role at burlesque show Peepshow Madison was responsible for reinvigorating the brand and turning it into Vegas’s number one hot spot. Her interest in burlesque first began in her twenties when she went to a show with Hefner and the other Playboy girls. It offered a refreshingly individual and vital alternative to the blonde, pink lipped beauty expected of her at the time. ‘Sitting around our VIP table was one bottle-blond fembot after the next, clad in some version of the same outlandish bustier, and all slightly dead behind the eyes. In burlesque, a woman could be both sexy and unique’. Alongside this Madison tries to position herself as an empowered independent woman on a journey of self-discovery. Burlesque fits into this perfectly. ‘The independent women who used burlesque as an artistic outlet to celebrate their creativity and their femininity on their terms and in their own unique way. Deep down, that was who I wanted to be’.

The Vegas Diaries begin after she left the Playboy Mansion. When discussing her former life with her friends the germ of an idea to write her story started to grow. She had this to say on why she hadn’t talked before that: ‘I had to accept that I kept quiet about my life at the mansion because I was ashamed. I kept quiet because I wanted people to believe the fantasy version because for so long I wanted to believe the fantasy’.

Vegas may seem like an unusual place to begin a new life but after having survived seven years at the Playboy Mansion the glitz, glamour of Sin City must have been appealing. For some people a Playboy history is something to be proud of and exploit, for others it is something to overcome. Madison uses The Vegas Diaries to try and plant herself firmly in the latter category: ‘attempting to shed the Playboy stigma and asking people to reconsider how they viewed me was an uphill battle’. It is up to the reader how much they buy into this. As a part of her reinvention she has latched onto the idea of female self-empowerment. Whether this provides a feminist story of self saviour will be left for each individual reader to decide. However, the stark difference between her Vegas life, in which she lives and dies on her own abilities, compared to the Mansion, is interesting.

Although she makes it clear from the start that she does not wish to embarrass or publicise others Madison does detail her love affairs with the same humour and honesty that marked Down the Rabbit Hole. This does however limit the interest for those searching for scandalous Vegas gossip as she gives pseudonyms to her partners. She is insightful and does not let herself off, particularly in her retelling of her relationship with Mark. There is some slight overlap with Down the Rabbit Hole, but The Vegas Diaries are angled to show how she worked her way to independence and self-esteem. This does not have the same weight and interest as her previous volume but is an entertaining read nonetheless. The book closes just before she met her husband and gave birth to her daughter. This was either done to mark the point that she had achieved her aim, or the cynic could suggest that it is to leave the door open for a further volume.

The Vegas Diaries is lighter on gossip but provides more insight into her life, circle of friends and love life. A fair amount of this has been covered in her previous book and reality series, as well as in the tabloids, and there is some overlap with the last quarter of Down the Rabbit Hole. As a result of this, this one may be more for fans than the casual reader. It is definitely more for fans of Holly than Playboy.

 

Holly Madison: The Vegas Diaries. Romance, Rolling the Dice, and the Road to Reinvention (Dey Street Books,  2017). 978-006245714, 288 pp., paperback.

Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson

“‘The past is what you leave behind in life, Ruby,’ she says with the smile of a reincarnated lama. ‘Nonsense, Patricia,’ I tell her as I climb on board my train. ‘The past’s what you take with you.’”

Atkinson’s exceptional debut novel open with the birth of Ruby Lennox and follows her as she comes of age in England in the second half of the twentieth century. In the meantime we are introduced to her family, the Lennox’s, who live above their pet shop and where she and her sisters often work and play. Ruby’s life is told in the first person and she makes an interesting eye into her life and her family. Alternate chapters offer flashbacks; going back to her great grandmother Alice and then following each generation through wars, affairs, bereavement and love. These chapters are told from the view point of each individual. The women are given more space than the men and we are shown what it was like to be powerless, to be a mother, to suffer loss and to find a way to save yourself. Ruby’s mother Bunty in particular is a fantastic character. She is frequently frightful, difficult and unlikable, but she is so completely recognisable. Sibling relationships and female relationships, mothers and daughters, are investigated throughout Behind the Scenes at the Museum.

There are several brilliant comedic scenes. The wedding that has been timed to coincide with the 1966 World Cup final, where England played West Germany and for the only time ever won is a masterclass in written comedy. At no point does it seem farcical as disaster piles upon misunderstanding until the whole wedding is a riot. Later on the family go on holiday with their next door neighbours. This was disastrous for many reasons, one of the most obvious being that one should never holiday with both your husband, your secret lover and his wife. Putting all together in a small cottage in a remote area of Scotland along with a bunch of children and a surly teenager was not a winning start, but a fabulously entertaining read.

When the first chapter opened I wasn’t sure that this was going to be the novel for me, however it very quickly picked up and became a wonderful, fascinating read. The ending fell a little flat as our favourite characters had quickly changed and grown away from the surroundings and history that made her. However the bulk of the 500 page novel was a compulsive read. Referring to the title there is a saying that we are the curators of our own lives, which perhaps has little meaning to others. This is a museum of Ruby that stretches back to a rare set of photographs taken of her great grandmother and travels down through the decades to her. It is also fascinating how characters keep repeating the patterns of their ancestors without realising it; almost as though a combination of conditioning and genetic memory keep these things in the family. This is also a story of mothers and their children, often losing their children.

Some members of the book club felt that the quantity of characters made things confusing. This isn’t something I found though. The novel is concerned with the history of one family and a family tree at the beginning of the novel may have been useful. However in this case I feel it should be the other way round. A traditional family tree branches out however with this one it feels as though the focal point, the point of connection should be Ruby, with the branches reaching out from her and into the past.

Behind The Scenes at the Museum has a very strong awareness of space and time, of how different people, families and generations can inhabit one space. Atkinson suggests that elements linger on in the buildings and in ruins. In the first few pages our protagonist has this to say “there has been a building on this spot since the Romans were here and needless to say it has its due proportion of light-as-air occupants who wreathe themselves around the fixtures and fittings and linger mournfully at our back”. This idea is touched upon throughout the novel. Much later on Ruby states “if I stand on the stairs and close my eyes, I can hear the voices of the household ghosts being carried hither and thither on the current of air. Do they miss us, I wonder?”.

Behind the Scenes at the Museum is very readable, in the best sense. It is one of the many popular novels that shows you can tackle the big themes and ideas of life through strong entertaining character driven plots that do not trip over themselves to be ‘literary’

Kate Atkinson, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, (Transworld Publishers, London, 1995) 490, Paperback

The Rotter’s Club by Jonathan Coe Review

“You see the title of this record? It’s called The Rotter’s Club. The Rotter’s Club: that’s us Lois, isn’t it? Do you see? That’s what they used to call us, at school. Bent Rotter, and Lowest Rotter. We’re The Rotter’s Club. You and me, Not Paul. Just you and me.”

 

Jonathan Coe’s The Rotter’s Club takes us back to 1970s Birmingham. Beginning in 1973 it takes in the Heath, Wilson and Callaghan governments before ending with the day of Thatcher’s election and the start of the long 80s. Being from the West Midlands reading this novel felt familiar and important as it catalogued the industrial power hub in its final days. From my father’s generation nearly every man you meet from the West Midlands will have worked at some point in one of the many car factories and at secondary school our tutor groups were named after car manufacturers that used to use Coventry as their base: Alvis, Humber, Triumph … It is difficult to exaggerate how important this industry was and how the impact of its demise is still being felt. This coming of age story is deeply funny and irreverent throughout. The lives of the adults in particular are convoluted at best but their effect is perhaps best felt through their children who take us with them on their riotous journey to the end of adolescence.

 

Benjamin Trotter is essentially the novels main character however his group of friends take up the backbone of The Rotter’s Club as they navigate their school days at a direct grant all boys academy. Alongside Doug, Philip and Claire Benjamin passes through adolescence trying to discover himself through music, writing and an unrequited love affair with Cicely Boyd. Benjamin is one of the least interesting characters and yet because of that he is interesting. Coming from a relatively stable middle class family his life and future seem mapped out. It is the way those around him move and change that is so vibrant. Benjamin is a great entry point for the reader as we often share his view on the evolving world around him. As each of his family members seek out the stability, love or intellectual entertainment they find themselves moving further and further away from each other. As the decade closes will they still exist as a cohesive family unit or will life have exploded their domestic comfort?

 

The resurrection of the school paper brings together an eclectic mix of people and the desire to shock, to create copy that will be read and not necessarily inform is particularly pertinent to today. Rivalries and love affairs are bought out into the open as the power struggles of the outside world also take place within the supposed safety of the school walls. From the prefects, to the highly select Closed Circle debating society and most dominantly between the school’s two leading athletic and intellectual stars: Richards and Culpepper. Richard’s as the only black pupil faces racism and then false acceptance as he works to be the first member of his family to make it to University. Culpepper, an unpopular contemporary has it in for Richard’s from the start. This rivalry escalates throughout with very real effects. At the same time unionists, management, racists and progressives are all fighting to have their voice heard at the still booming British Leyland plant. Coe incorporates many real life events and people into the novel with excellent effect, drawing the reader in to the hub of the action.

 

Class and class divides are expertly scrutinised throughout the novel. The nature of fee paying private schools, and the hierarchy that comes with it parallels that of the Leyland employees and highlights how each person is affected by their class. Will Richards, from a working class background, be able to use education as a stepping stone to something more? For people like Benjamin is an easy life guaranteed? When writing for the school paper he is confused and disappointed that he is the only writer who seems unable to stir any controversy. Significantly the novel ends on a positive note however with Thatcher’s electoral victory in the background the reader is aware that what comes may have significant or even devastating impact on our much loved characters.

 

The title comes from Benjamin’s relationship with his older sister Lois. It is here that moments of pathos and the disappointment of life are best shown. At 16 Lois meets Malcolm, aka the hairy man. Soon they become a couple but the end of their affair is devastating. Coe is careful not to overdo this. After coming to the end of their chapter it is difficult not to be moved by what has happened. It is a reminder that the violence of the world, the politics and power plays, involve real ordinary people.

 

The only slight query would be as to the last chapter. Short and told from Benjamin’s perspective it is written as one sentence. Perhaps to show the joy and freedom the character is feeling at this point? Does the stream of consciousness show how he has now been freed from the constraints of school? According to the BBC the final chapter is made up of a 13,955 word sentence, making it the longest single sentence in the English language at the time of publication. This rather unique accolade however seems to do little for the actual telling of the story. A BBC TV series of The Rotter’s Club made more of the adult story lines that are only peeked at in the novel. In case of the affair between Barbara and Mr Plum this worked excellently and proved to be one of the funniest points of the series.

 

Excitingly the Author’s Note at the end of the book says that there is a sequel. Called The Closed Circle it meets up with the characters in the late 1990s. I am very keen to read this. The Rotter’s Club was my first introduction to Jonathan Coe’s writing but I hope to read and review the follow up for you all in the near future.

 

Dad’s Review

My daughter passed this book onto me thinking I might enjoy it and I would happily recommend it to others. The Rotter’s Club is such as good story with plenty of twists and turns. Coe must have lived through that time in history. The way he evoked the history of the unions and civil strife in late 70’s Birmingham was similar to how I remember it being. Red Robbo is mentioned in the book. This took me back to the day that as an apprentice I saw shop stewards from the Transport and General Workers speak to a field of union members before they declared strike action on his behalf (that if memory serves only around one third of people actually voted for!). The relationship between the car industry and the local community defined our lives but now that time has passed. I liked the way the character Stephen was used to show up the inherent racism in the system. The way that life will always be easier for some than others. The writing was witty and wry and made me laugh out loud. There was one particular scene, between Lois and the Hairy Man, that made my heart twist. It started as a sweet lovely evening out but turned into something that nearly made me cry. It was not overdone but told simply and delicately. This scene has stayed with me.

 

Jonathan Coe, The Rotter’s Club, (Viking, London, 2001) ISBN 0375413830. 414pp., Hardback

According to Yes by Dawn French Review

 

We meet Rosie Kitto, our Cornish heroine, on her arrival in New York. She turns up to a job interview in a fancy Manhattan apartment soaked from the rain, wearing a blue suit, hat askew and red brogues. From the off she is clearly full to bursting with life and optimism and she has set out to say yes to the world. Rosie is a bit like a ray of sunshine breaking into the household and throwing light on the cold corridors and wall of staged photographs.

Rosie has travelled to New York with the intention of saying yes. She is running away. The opening pages give a brief glimpse into her previous life. A relationship loved and perhaps lost, and a child never conceived despite being wanted so badly. Having endured the pain of trying and failing to get pregnant Rosie is breaking away. A primary school teacher in her thirties she soon finds herself being interviewed by the imperious and intimidating Glen Wilder – Bingham for a nanny position.

The setup is clear from the beginning. Rosie is all bright colours, vibrancy and life emanating from her. In clear contrast is Glen Wilder – Bingham. The family matriarch she is stiff and perfectly presented in everything she does. However the family are not as impressive as the name would suggest. Glen rules the roost. Then there is her husband Thomas, who refuses to fully retire in his 80s, terrified by the knowledge that death is coming and he seems unlikely to have sex again. Next is their alcoholic, spineless son Kemble who has been broken by his divorce and the relentlessness of his mother’s expectations; an older grandson Teddy who has largely managed to escape it all and the two sparky young twins Red and Three.

Rosie quickly becomes a vital part of the young boy’s lives and bit by bit becomes immersed into the comings and goings of the whole family. Presented with the convoluted lives of the wealthy, of those who have never had to think much further than their own needs, Rosie brings a much needed openness and curiosity to the household. As her relations develop with the male members of the Wilder – Bingham family it starts to seem as though Rosie is a time bomb with one more ‘yes’ setting off an explosion that will echo through this Manhattan Upper East Side family. A life of embracing ‘yes’ can have unexpected consequences. Rosie finds her life altered dramatically in her short American adventure.

The characters verge on the exaggerated and there are a few scenes that seem a little staged. Although Rosie is there to say yes to life some of the situations that she enters into seem unlikely and out of character. The first two thirds in particular were funny and kept the reader amused. There is a change of pace in the final third as the results of her saying yes come to term. Things become a little more serious although the absurd fringe remains. This is something that some reviewers have had a problem with it however when opening the novel for the first time if one sets aside your sense of disbelief it is easy to be carried away and find the hours fly by. French has a flare for writing and will hopefully continue. This is her third novel, and each of them offer something completely different. It would have been easy for her to take the simple route and offer up cheap recycled laughs however each novel shows research and a keen eye for capturing people. It is just a minor point but that a novel that has been through the editing process should not really have any spelling mistakes and grammatical inaccuracies. Hopefully this will be improved upon for French’s next effort. The Amazon and Good Reads reviews are a mixed bag and it probably falls somewhere in between.

According To Yes book came into my life when I needed something entertaining and humorous with heart and did the job excellently.

 

Dawn French, According to Yes (Michael Joseph, UK, 2015). ISBN 9780718159177. 365pp., Hardback.