Book Review – ‘Cactus’ by Sarah Haywood ⭐⭐⭐.5

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Thank you to NetGalley, John Murray Press and Sarah Haywood for the chance to read this book.

“It’s never too late to bloom….”

People aren’t sure what to make of Susan Green – family and colleagues find her prickly and hard to understand, but Susan makes perfect sense to herself, and that’s all she needs.

Susan Green is a strange character.  She only buys charcoal, grey or black clothes, is often found writing letters or emails of complaint , will bring up ideas for timesaving with her manager so often that she jokes Susan save time by having an allotted time each month to raise these things, she tends to her collection of  cacti with precision each day and never takes holidays. She doesn’t have any friends, has no interest in socialising with her colleagues, has limited and regimented contact with her family and has created a life where she is so independent and isolated in order to avoid being hurt. But there is a problem – Susan is going to be a mother.  This unplanned event in her carefully controlled life leaves her reeling and unsure, not knowing what she will do first about the pregnancy and then when the baby is born.

I loved the opening paragraph and how it gave an immediate sense of Susan’s nature. You see her detachment and how she endeavours to act in a proper way whatever the circumstances when she has a seemingly emotionless response to the news of her mother’s death.  She is in fact upset, but views her ability to conceal her feelings from others is a talent, tears as not of any help and something she certainly doesn’t intend to shed in front of her brother Edward, who she has an intense disliking for.

When she arrives in Birmingham for her mother’s funeral she is shocked and appalled to hear that her mother wrote a will just weeks before her death in which she gives Edward the right to live in the house for as long as he wants so it will only be sold upon him leaving or his death.  Susan is immediately convinced there is foul play involved as there’s no way her mother would do such a thing without force. Intent on proving this she embarks on taking the case to court and gaining her rightful, and needed, inheritance, not realising this will also take her on a journey of self discovery as she strips away the secrets she never knew were hidden from her and finds things she never expected to learn.

I enjoyed this often funny and heartwarming book but did find it slow at times and that both the character and story could be a little too bland.  A lot of the humour for me was in how little self awareness she actually had in some situations and in her complete lack of understanding about children and parenting.  The fact that she is very sure of her child being as sensible and understanding of the right way things should be done as she is, and that anything else can be simply and calmly explained to the child  lead to some wonderfully amusing scenes. It wasn’t easy to warm to Susan, although as she became less of a frosty personality and her impending motherhood made her grow as a person, I took to her more and was rooting for her finding the ending she wanted.  Another thing I liked about this book was that even though it wasn’t written in diary form it was still narrated as if she was talking to the directly to the reader.

Overall this was an amusing, fun and at times emotional debut . It will inevitably be compared to Eleanor Oliphant but is a very different book in a lot of ways.  I would recommend this to any lovers of chick lit and adult fiction .

Out October 4th.

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