What a way to start this new year- with finishing this book and taking away the inspirational messages with which it holds.
have read a couple of Erica James’ books and have always devoured them so when I received this for Christmas I was very keen to get reading it. I certainly wasn’t disappointed, I think this is my favourite book written by her that I have read (so far!)
The story is about a rather bizarre set up in a family. Living together in the same house ever since they all lost their wives in a car crash are the grandparents and father of Saskia. Since her mother died in the crash when she was a child, Saskia has found comfort in the fact that both her grandfathers and her father set up a home for her to have the stability she needed. Despite it being far from the normal set up of a family, it has worked and if anything it’s been far more ideal than many other families. There are no written rules but everyone has roles that they’ve filled and they have lots of respect for each other and a huge amount of support and love but at 32 can Saskia really continue to live this way? Shouldn’t she have moved out and started her own adventures by now? Her grandfathers seem to think so and upon finding a mysterious notebook that contains a rather interesting story change begins to happen…
The notebook contains a form of diary written by Jacob Bilinksy during the Second World War. It contains his innermost thoughts about his meeting with Kitty who he instantly falls in love with. Their relationship isn’t straight forward though for her family are upperclass Catholics and he is a Jewish boy from the East End. They face lots of opposition from them and Jacob’s self esteem, which is already very low, takes a battering and makes him doubt himself. Kitty is the love of his life, she’s confident and determined to make the most of the situation they find themselves in and she is very open and honest in her love for Matthew.
The term The Dandelion Years was presented to Matthew by Kitty who said that they are living in a time where their lives could end at any moment and so they have to make the most of the moment. Life is like a dandelion; it can be blown out at any moment but it leaves behind seeds which can grow into so much more.
What I loved about the book was the positivity behind it. Yes there was lots of grief within it and heartache but the feeling you’re left behind after reading this book is one of great optimisim. Things can go very wrong but if you have someone behind you who is supporting you then there is no reason why you can’t find happiness.
There were lots of moments within the book that make you think about your own life and how you can improve it. One being just how Saskia’s family got along and supported each other. There were many events that could have rocked the boat and caused problems- such as Saskia’s father Ralph finding a new girlfriend. This could have lead to his father in law being bitter or Saskia worrying about the change this could lead to but it didn’t. Instead they all respected his needs and spoke about their concerns openly and were more than supportive. It made me think about my own family, how we could learn from that set up- instead of worrying about change we can look for the positives within it and welcome it. The whole concept of the dandelion is a very positive message too which really did make me think about my life. Living with a disease that impacts upon your life like cancer is very difficult. You can easily be miserable and put your life on hold but the concept of the dandelion brings to life the fact that we are all living on borrowed time and should make the most of what we have, to leave behind an impact which can lead to special things. It definitely made me think about what I could achieve in life.
I loved the characters in this book. They were beautifully created leaving you feeling like they were real and as though you know them. I loved the way they interacted with each other, the narrative between the various members of Saskia’s family was very convincing, it definitely reminded me of some of my own family interactions! I thought the way that the self doubt which Jacob suffered from was described brilliantly, you could almost feel his unease and I really wanted to tell him to just relax and make the most of his love rather than worrying… it really was described that well! And this was what Saskia and Matthew (the heir of Jacob’s possessions) took away with them when they read the book too. I think it takes a very clever author who can get a reader to feel emotions like this and really relate to their situations.
This is a really lovely book. I found that there were times when I couldn’t put it down and read on way later than I should do through very sleepy eyes as I just wanted to know what would happen next! I think both parts to the story- the contemporary and the historical- were interwoven perfectly. I lost myself in both of the worlds and felt for the characters in both.
As I finished this book this morning I was left feeling very positive which is a perfect way to begin a new year. This book is all about not just settling for what you have but taking chances to see if you could actually be happier doing something else. There is a lot to be said for that and certainly a lot that I can draw from it myself which is definitely the sign of a very good book.
I definitely recommend this book to you if you like to read a book that will draw you in, have you fall in love with the characters and find yourself able to grow from the messages within the book.
Beautifully written and 5 stars from me.