I just finished reading this book earlier and thought I should review it now whilst it’s still fresh in my mind. I thoroughly enjoyed it and it has left a lasting impression upon me. It is written in such a careful, delicate way that it draws you in and makes you want to read more to find out what happens.
I first stumbled across Lisa Jewell when a friend of mine lent me her book The Truth About Melody Browne. I really loved the book and so recently decided to look up some more of her work to see what else she had written. After having really enjoyed the first book I was worried that this wouldn’t live up to my expectations but I am pleased to say that it did.
The story tells of Ralph and Jem. They met eleven years ago, fell in love, lived together, had a family together and been through various life events. When we first meet the pair Ralph has vanished. He hasn’t picked his children up and he appears to have just disappeared into thin air. Lisa Jewell then tells the story of their relationship and all of the events over the last eleven years which lead up to Ralph going away.
After the birth of their second child, Ralph suddenly announces one day that he is going to go to America to meet up with an old friend. Jem is stunned and infuriated. Why should he just be able to have a week away from the sleepless nights, the difficult disciplining of a three year old? Why should he think it okay to just walk out and leave her to deal with it all? What would he say if she suddenly announced that? But Jem lets him go and keeps her resentment to herself. Whilst Ralph is away things happen to both him and Jem.
Ralph finds a strange peace with his friend’s girlfriend Rosey who teaches him things about himself he wasn’t aware of. He wants to return home to Jem to be a better person, to try harder and to make more of an effort to be a better father and partner. Jem, however, realises that she quite enjoys playing a single mother for the week, she meets a new friend, a single father who makes her question her life and wonder if there is something more for her out there.
Upon Ralph’s return he is all confident about their relationship and acts in the way he believes he should but Jem just finds it bizarre and cannot understand it especially as she has been questioning her life. Jewell takes us on a journey, she goes through the emotions they are both feeling, talks about the events that occur to the couple as they both struggle to save their relationship and wonder where it all went wrong. When did the carefree, in love couple go? At what point did things change? Was it when they had children? Was it when Ralph went away? Will they be able to save themselves?
The characters are fantastically formed. You get to know them so well that you feel as though they are real life friends.Jem I could relate to very well. She is trying her best to be a good mother and also start working too despite her baby still being very young. Jewell tells of her struggles with patience as she tries to please everyone and the way she describes her is so very fitting that I am sure many mothers with young children can relate to her… from the middle of the night breastfeeding to trying to persuade her daughter to clear up her cereal bowl which she has thrown on the floor in a tantrum. As Jem begins to question her life I too began to question it and wonder what would be best for her. I felt as though I was really seeing things through her eyes, it was amazing how well she was created.
Ralph came across as a struggling character, one who really wanted to do better and was struggling coming to terms with situations. He did seem quite like a pathetic man at first, how he ducked out of responsibilities but then he began to grow on me as I saw how much he tried to make things better and how he tried to make sense of it all. It was great how I felt like I could relate to both of the main characters.
The other characters that were in the book were well formed too.
This novel is not packed with action but it is packed with emotion and information. I felt as though I had gone on a journey with this book, that as well as going on the journey with Jem and Ralph I also experienced a bit of a change in myself. It did make me think about my own relationship, how having children has also changed myself and my husband and whether that is a good or bad thing or whether it doesn’t even matter at all. I could relate so well to their situation that it was compelling.
I think it is a beautiful skill for an author to have to create characters that you can relate to and this certainly is the case. I really did feel as though I knew them inside and out by the end and was slightly moved by it all.
There were some points in this book that made me smile with knowing, other parts made me laugh, others made me feel frustrated, sad, concerned… it was a rollercoaster book which reflects the lives of the characters and the fact that these emotions came out with me and not just the characters really make me think that this book is cleverly written.
There are lots of twists and turns in this book and it is very believable. It is the kind of book you read and you think that could be me. That could be a friend I know. It wasn’t trying to be something it wasn’t by having a dramatic story line or a huge amount of drama, instead it was written in a believable way in a pace which was extremely well fitting for the story.
I never second guessed what was going to happen. There were times when I thought I knew what was about to happen but then it never did and so it was really intriguing. I wondered how it would end and genuinely didn’t know what the outcome would be, I stayed up late reading on as I wanted to know what happened and now I have finished it I feel a little sad that it’s over!
I really enjoyed this book. If you like something with well formed characters and lots of emotion then you will love this.