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The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid. - Jane Austen

Review: Jane Green – The Love Verb

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jane-green-the-love-verbWell I’ve now realised why it’s a bad idea to use the back of the book to decide which book to read, as the major ‘surprise’ plot point was given away on the back of the book, even though I read almost 200 pages before it was revealed in the book. It kind of spoilt it because I spent 200 pages waiting for it to happen.

I’m going to give away spoilers now though, so if you don’t want me to spoilt the book for you in the same way, I’d stop reading now.

The book is about Callie, a happily married mum to two kids, with a sister she is very close to, and two parents that she loves (even if they haven’t loved each other since they divorced 30 years ago). As I mentioned before, the first 200 or so pages of the book were spent introducing you to all the characters and setting up the little side-stories. Callie is experiencing some headaches and dizziness, and then at Callie’s birthday, her husband raises a toast to Callie for her birthday and for hitting the 4 year all-clear mark from her treatment for breast cancer.

But while out shopping with her mum and sister, Callie gets dizzy while driving and ends up on the wrong side of the street. She is forced to go back into hospital, where her deterioration is rapid. She’s weak and losing hair and weight so quickly that it shocks everyone. Then comes the shocker that we’re not prepared for. Callie has a disease that happens to about 5% of breast cancer sufferers called Leptomeningeal Carcinomatosis. The worst news – it’s untreatable. Callie has a year, tops, but worst case it could be as little as 4-6 weeks.

Cue everyone else miraculously sorting their lives out before anything bad can happen, suddenly Steffi has found the man of her dreams, Lila is pregnant and Honor and Walter (Callie’s parents) are back together again.

And then, no matter how much hope we are given that it might not happen, Callie passes away. Now I know that this may be a hard part of the story to write, but it felt kind of like a cop-out. We get one page about Callie having died, and then we skip to the epilogue one year in the future, to let us know how fine everyone’s lives have turned out. It felt like an anti-climax, after 400 pages of build up and we have a one-page conclusion and then a short epilogue written to give the story a happy-ever-after kind of feel.

I did enjoy the book, and it was genuinely heart-breaking, especially when you find out at the end that the author’s friend died age 43 from the same illness. The story of Callie is not the story of Heidi, but Jane Green wrote the book and dedicated it to her friend.

I’d give it full marks if it wasn’t for the slightly disappointing ending, but I’d definitely recommend the book if you’re not afraid of having a little cry.

4-5

Review: Jane Green – The Beach House

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the-beach-house-jane-green-e1338152306643Not my favourite Jane Green book, but enjoyable all the same. The book (like a lot of Green’s books) has multiple main characters which means it is hard to keep up with in the beginning. It actually takes until about 200 pages into the book before you have been introduced to all the characters and their background stories and the main plot actually gets underway. I don’t like books that take so long to set the scene, it makes it hard to get involved and you definitely have to persevere to keep up with it until you find out if you’ll actually like the story or not.

Of all the characters, the only one I actually liked was Nan. She raised her son Michael on her own after her husband committed suicide when Michael was 6. She’s having money troubles after her investments went sour and now she is renting out rooms in her house in Nantucket to try and raise some extra cash and avoid selling the house she loves so much. She’s a people person and a bit of a match maker and loves having a full house again.

Her son Michael was having an affair with his boss’ wife Jordana and having broken it off, she won’t leave him alone so he returns to Nantucket to get away. She turns up in Nantucket with the bombshell that she’s pregnant, turning his world upside down as he has now fallen for Daff – a woman staying in Nan’s house.

Daff is there because her husband cheated on her and her daughter Jess has gone to live with him so she’s on her own and wants to get away. Jess is causing major problems trying to get attention from her Dad now that he has a new girlfriend, and soon starts shoplifting to make herself feel better. When her Dad finds out, she is sent back to her mum in Nantucket. It turns out that all she needs is the new place and the new people and she’s a little angel again.

The other family is Bee and Daniel. They’ve just broken up after 6 years of marriage because Daniel has finally admitted that he’s gay. A little too late as they have 2 kids together. Things are (understandably) awkward between them until Bee’s dad is taken ill and the Daniel takes the kids in at Nan’s house to look after them. When Bee’s Dad is out of hospital, she brings him to Nantucket where we learn the biggest bombshell of them all. One that changes everything, first for the worst, then for the better.

I’ll not spoil the end of the book for you as it gets a bit juicy, but I did like the fact that we return to Nantucket a year later to wrap up the story, much better than leaving it hanging.

While I enjoyed the second half of the book, I didn’t like the fact that it took so long to set up all the background stories – perhaps it would have been better with fewer characters, but then there would have been less interweaving of all the stories, which is what I liked about the book. I also didn’t like the fact that most of the book revolved around affairs and marriages breaking up. Perhaps I’m an idealist or the maybe the book was aimed at women slightly older than me, but it wasn’t my favourite part of the storyline.

All in all, it was an enjoyable read, but for the reasons above, I’d only give it 3/5. Unusual for Jane Green as she’s one of my favourites.

3-5

Now Reading: Jane Green – The Beach House

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the-beach-house-jane-green-e1338152306643After spending over a week trying to read The Hobbit and finding it really hard to get involved in, I fancied a quicker, easier read. With the recent spell of hot weather (which is great if you’re not stuck in an office), I wanted something summery to read, and this Jane Green book jumped out at me.

Jane Green is one of my favourite authors, and one that is really easy to find in the charity shops in Pudsey, hence why this one looks a bit battered and old. I quite like books like this though, books that you know have been read and loved by the people who have read them before. And when they only cost 25p, can you really complain? I think not…