Welcome to First Lines Friday, where I share the first lines from one of the books on my shelves to try and tempt you to add it to yours.
“You can tell a lot about a person from the library books they borrow.”
Today’s first line is taken from The Last Library by Freya Sampson, which is published on September 2nd. I love the sound of this one and was so excited to receive this gorgeous personalised proof earlier this week.
Library assistant June knows a lot about the regulars at Chalcot Library, yet they know very little about her. When her mum – the beloved local librarian – passed away eight years ago, June stepped into her shoes. But despite their shared love of books, shy June has never felt she can live up to the village’s memory of her mum. Instead, she’s retreated into herself and her memories, surviving on Chinese takeaways-for-one and rereading their favourite books at home.
When the library is threatened with closure, a ragtag band of eccentric locals establish the Friends of Chalcot Library campaign. There’s gentlemanly pensioner Stanley, who visits the library for the computers and the crosswords, cantankerous Mrs B, who is yet to find a book she approves of, and teenager Chantal, who just wants a quiet place to study away from home. But can they compel reclusive June to join their cause?
If June wants to save the library, she finally has to make some changes to her life: opening up her heart to friendship, opportunities and maybe even more . . .
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this delightful and refreshing love story. Thank you to Tracy at Compulsive Readers Tours for the invitation to take part and to Zaffre for the gifted ebook ARC.
Millie is a perfectionist. She’s happy, she’s successful and, with a great support network of friends and family (and a very grumpy cat), she’s never lonely. She loves working at a big tech firm and is on track be promoted to her dream role. The last thing she needs is romance messing up her perfectly organised world.
Besides, normal people just don’t have romantic relationships. Everyone knows that being in a couple is a bit . . . well, odd. You know, like having a pet snake or referring to yourself in the third person. Why rely on another person for your own happiness? Why risk the humiliation of unrequited love or the agony of a break-up? No, Millie is more than happy with her conventional single life.
So, when Millie lands a new project at work, launching a pill that prevents you falling in love, it seems like the opportunity of a lifetime. That is, until she starts working with Ben. He’s charming and funny, and Millie feels an instant connection to him.
Will Millie sacrifice everything she believes in for love?
Imagine a world where being single was the norm and those in relationships were viewed as not only unusual, but less-than. Or a world where there’s a drug designed to prevent you falling in love. That is the world of The Couple, the delightful new book by Helly Acton. This book was a joy to read from beginning to end. A glorious mix of humorous, warm and compelling writing, the author also examines and challenges our perceptions of society, life and love.
I adored Millie and Ben. Millie is a Type-A personality, a demure perfectionist with a love of schedules, order and control. She knows what she wants to achieve and won’t let anything get in her way. Yet there is also a vulnerability to her in her eagerness to please, concern about what others think and the panic attacks she suffers from. And then there’s Ben. Ben is ebullient, spontaneous, chaotic, adventurous and doesn’t care what others think. But he is also funny, kind, thoughtful and charming. I could see why Millie fell for him. The author expertly conveys Millie’s torment over her feelings for Ben and how the idea of even a crush, let alone being in love or having a relationship filled her with dread and a sense that there was something wrong with her. Their chemistry leapt from the pages and while it might seem cheesy and predictable, I found it well written, hopeful and authentic. It was impossible not to root for them and hope they would have the happy ending they deserve.
At the beginning of the book the author explains that she wanted to write a book for the happy single people who are tired of being made to feel ‘less than’ because they’re not in a relationship. There is a lot of societal pressure to be part of a couple, meaning some settle for unhappy, bad or toxic relationships just to be part of one. It was fascinating to see how the world could look if the roles were reversed. I enjoyed the discussions between those on different sides of the debate and thought that the addition of a new drug that is the antidote for love was a brilliant and thought-provoking concept. For all the heartache and struggles that love can sometimes bring, do we really want to live in a world without romantic love?
All the stars for this funny, entertaining and uplifting book that gave me all the feels. A refreshing twist on the usual love story, I devoured it quickly. Perfect to lose yourself in, I highly recommend you read this book.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
I was born in Zimbabwe, finished school in the UK, spent time in Saudi Arabia and partied away my twenties in Australia.
After six years and one life-affirming divorce in Sydney, I returned home to London. Here, I made up for lost time with my family, embraced midulthood and enjoyed the single life in a city where the dating apps don’t run dry.
I am an open book and use my experiences as an inspiration for my stories. Like the time I married the wrong person because everyone else was doing it. Or the time I only dated men my Mum swiped right on, to see if She could choose any better. Or the time a date told me I wasn’t a real writer because I hadn’t published a book. I did eventually find Mr Right At The Right Time, and married Chris in 2019.
In the words of my completely unbiased publisher, I am a ‘huge talent’ and THE SHELF is a fabulously feminist novel and a breath of fresh air, full of real, relatable characters and an important message. The book is clever and empowering but, most importantly, incredibly fun. In my spare hours, I am writing, rewriting, and rewriting again, my second book, which is due for release in 2021.
THE SHELF has been optioned for Television by Monumental Pictures and the rights sold in five territories.
Published: April 29th, 2021 Publisher: Michael Joseph Genre: Romance Novel, Contemporary Romance, Humorous Fiction, Domestic Fiction Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this fantastic book. Thank you to Chrissie at Michael Joseph for the invitation to take part and the ARC of the book.
NOAH AND KATE WERE MEANT TO BE TOGETHER FOREVER.
Married with two gorgeous sons, it looked like they’d got their happy ever after.
But marriage isn’t easy. And one day, Kate left, taking their two boys with her.
These days, Noah is a weekend dad – and it breaks his heart. He misses the chaotic mealtimes, the bedtime stories, the early mornings and the late homework.
Suddenly, he decides enough is enough – he has to win his family back. Starting with Kate.
The only problem?
IN SIX WEEKS’ TIME, KATE IS GETTING MARRIED TO SOMEONE ELSE . . .
Until Next Weekend is a story about love, loss and moving on. It made me laugh, made me cry, and it made my heart ache. The author has cleverly crafted a nuanced, emotive and tender story that is also a funny and entertaining read.
It is expertly and sensitively written, weaving serious topics such as depression, suicide, grief and child neglect amongst the lighthearted jokes and banter. With evocative and descriptive prose she brings the story and characters to life. I loved the scenes with Noah’s pupils in particular as she perfectly captured the wonderful innocence, beauty and frustration of young children in his buzzing, chaotic classroom.
I liked Noah. He’s a great character who feels very real. He makes mistakes and isn’t always likeable, yet the author knows how to make you care about him and root for him, particularly for the sake of his young sons. But while he was a great narrator and main character, for me the stars of the show were Mimi and little Harley.
Barmaid Mimi is a vibrant, charismatic and feisty character who challenges Noah from the moment they meet. I enjoyed their dynamic and how she helped him to grow. Harley, Mimi’s troubled nephew who is also one of Noah’s pupils, was by far my favourite character. He has a lot of problems and is initially seen as a naughty and unlikeable child. But we soon learn there is much more to his behaviour than first meets the eye. My heart broke for him as his story unfolded and this little boy found a place in my heart. Marks is a master at writing troubled children and knows exactly how to shatter your heart into a million pieces and make you want to throw your arms around them and reassure them it will all be okay.
Compelling, truthful, thought-provoking and dripping with humour, Ms. Marks is two for two on fantastic books that I would recommend. I’m looking forward to reading what she writes next.
Trigger Warnings: Depression, suicide.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Rachel Marks studied English at Exeter University before becoming a primary school teacher. After having her first son, she decided to focus mainly on being a mum, teaching one day a week and nurturing her creative side by starting a small photography business.
Despite always loving to write, it wasn’t until she gained a place on the 2016 Curtis Brown Creative online novel writing course that she started to believe it could be anything more than just a much-loved hobby. Her inspiration for her first novel came from the challenges she faced with her eldest son, testing and fascinating in equal measure. When she discovered Pathological Demand Avoidance, a poorly understood Autism Spectrum Disorder, she could finally make sense of her son’s behavior, and the idea for the first novel fell into place.
When not writing, she loves dragging her husband and two boys around Europe to off-the-beaten track and sometimes sub zero destinations, snowboarding and sightseeing, the kind of trips that would undeniably be easier without children but only half the adventure…
Published: April 29th, 2021 Publisher: Michael Joseph Genre: Romance Novel, Contemporary Romance, Domestic Fiction, Humour, Humorous Fiction
Best friends tell each other everything.Or do they?
Georgia and Lydia are so close, they’re practically sisters.
So when Lydia starts an online business that struggles, Georgia wants to help her – but Lydia’s not the kind to accept a handout. Setting up a fake Twitter account, Georgia hopes to give her friend some anonymous moral support by posing as a potential customer.
But then Lydia starts confiding in her new internet buddy and Georgia discovers she doesn’t know her quite as well as she thought. Georgia knows she should reveal the truth – especially when Lydia starts talking about her – but she just can’t help herself.
Until Lydia reveals a secret that could not only end their friendship, but also blow-up Georgia’s marriage . . .
Georgia’s in too deep.
But what can she save? Her marriage, her friendship – or just herself?
Worst Idea Ever is a sharply-observed story of tumultuous female friendship, a misguided act of charity, jealousy, vengeance and betrayal.
Georgia and Lydia have been best friends for over twenty years. But while on the surface they appear to be soul sisters who are more like family and friends, they are both hiding secret jealousies and rivalry that lurks beneath their love and support of one another. When Georgia, a successful children’s author and illustrator, drunkenly creates a fake twitter account to secretly try and boost Lydia’s confidence in her own creative endeavours, she sparks a chain of events that sees their resentment and irritation boil over and threatens to tear them apart forever.
Why on earth have I waited so long to read one of this author’s books?! After inhaling this book in pretty much one sitting and staying up until 3am to finish it as I NEEDED answers, I’m kicking myself for letting her books languish on my shelves for so long. I loved how she pulled the rug from under me with a jaw-dropping twist that took this from an entertaining but predictable read, to one that had me on the edge of my seat trying desperately to figure out what would happen next. It was pure genius and made it impossible to put the book down.
Expertly written, Fallon entertains while examining the complexities of issues such as friendship, jealousy, deception and revenge, putting the reader in the shoes of both sides of the story so they can make their own mind up about who and what is right or wrong. She also looks at the lies we tell ourselves to excuse our bad decisions, the damage we can cause to others when trying to do the right thing, and the masks people can wear to hide who they really are.
Georgia and Lydia are great characters that I enjoyed individually and as a duo. They have that easy rapport of long-standing, close friendship, that I’m sure we all recognise. They’ve been there for each other’s highest highs and lowest lows and feel like they know each other inside out. But there are things unspoken, fragments of envy and conflict they don’t give a voice to, that lurk under the surface and fester. It is a combination of all of these things that leads to Georgia’s misguided act of kindness and Lydia’s Judas kiss of betrayal.
If you’re looking for an entertaining read full of twists and tension, then this is the book for you. Compulsive, clever, witty and utterly brilliant, I am an instant fan. Now I’m off to buy more of her books…
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Jane Fallon is the multi-award-winning television producer behind shows such as This Life, Teachers and 20 Things to Do before You’re 30. Her debut novel “Getting Rid of Matthew’ was published in 2007 and became a Sunday Times Top Ten Bestseller as have her subsequent books ‘Got You Back’, ‘Foursome’, ‘The Ugly Sister’, ‘Skeletons’, ‘Strictly Between Us’,’My Sweet Revenge’, ‘Faking Friends’ and ‘Tell Me a Secret’ Her 10th novel Queen Bee is available now to pre order in both paperback and for Kindle.
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for one of the best books I’ve read this year.
Have you ever imagined running away from your life?
Well Birdy Finch didn’t just imagine it. She did it. Which might’ve been an error. And the life she’s run into? Her best friend, Heather’s.
The only problem is, she hasn’t told Heather. Actually there are a few other problems…
Can Birdy carry off a summer at a luxury Scottish hotel pretending to be her best friend (who incidentally is a world-class wine expert)?
And can she stop herself from falling for the first man she’s ever actually liked (but who thinks she’s someone else)
The Summer Job is a fresh, fun, feel-good romcom for fans of The Flatshare, Bridget Jones and Bridesmaids.
WANT TO ESCAPE REAL LIFE FOR A WHILE? RUN AWAY WITH BIRDY FINCH, A MESSY HEROINE WITH A HEART OF GOLD. THE SUMMER JOB IS THE HOTTEST DEBUT TO LOSE YOURSELF IN THIS YEAR.
“It’s like they’ll believe anything I say. I’m the Donald Trump of wine.”
Birdy Finch’s life is a mess. So when her best friend Heather decides to go to Italy with her new boyfriend instead of taking a summer job as sommelier at a Scottish hotel, Birdy decides to escape her own life and pose as Heather. All she has to do is convince everyone she’s a first-class wine expert.
But there is much more to this job than she’d anticipated. Then there’s the complication of her burgeoning romance with sexy chef James. With both the hotel and her best friend’s reputations on the line, she’s feeling the pressure. Can Birdy pull it off?
I truly believe that some books come to you at just the right time. This was one of them for me. Absorbing, uplifting, witty and original, this was a balm for my soul and a joy to read from beginning to end. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much when reading. And though I read it three months ago, I still think of it most days with a smile on my face.
To connect with a book you need a great main character. And Birdy is a fabulous creation. She’s a hot mess and absolutely hilarious, but also possesses a kindness, vulnerability and insecurity that endeared her to me even more. I enjoyed watching her grow from someone who saw it all as a bit of a lark to taking things seriously and being determined to prove what she could do. She is fabulously written and a wonderful heroine. I was cheering her on, rooting for her to pull it all off with her friendship intact while finding happiness for herself.
Dent is a remarkable new talent that I’m really excited about. She possesses an abundance of wit and charisma that shines through her writing. She pulls the reader in, making you fully invested in the characters and story and transporting you to the sunny climes of France in May, even when reading the book under a blanket on a freezing January day. Her writing even had me believing in the most outlandish parts of the plot and made her cliched crush on James something I was rooting for.
Heartwarming, entertaining, captivating and utterly brilliant, The Summer Job should be on everyone’s summer reading list. I devoured it quickly, unable to tear myself away from Birdy and her antics. And I have no doubt you will feel the same. So grab a glass of wine and immerse yourself in this truly spectacular debut.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Lizzy Dent (mis)spent her early twenties working in Scotland in hospitality. After years travelling the world making Music TV for MTV and Channel 4, and creating digital content for Cartoon Network, the BBC and ITV, she wrote three Young Adult novels as Rebecca Denton published in the UK. This is her debut adult novel. She lives between London, Austria, and New Zealand with her young family.
Thank you to Quercus books for the gifted ARC of this book.
THE BRAND NEW NOVEL FROM THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR, BETH O’LEARY.
Addie and her sister are about to embark on an epic road trip to a friend’s wedding in rural Scotland. The playlist is all planned and the snacks are packed.
But, not long after setting off, a car slams into the back of theirs. The driver is none other than Addie’s ex, Dylan, who she’s avoided since their traumatic break-up two years earlier.
Dylan and his best mate are heading to the wedding too, and they’ve totalled their car, so Addie has no choice but to offer them a ride. The car is soon jam-packed full of luggage and secrets, and with four-hundred miles ahead of them, Dylan and Addie can’t avoid confronting the very messy history of their relationship…
Will they make it to the wedding on time? And, more importantly, is this really the end of the road for Addie and Dylan?
The Road Trip is a story about the joy and terror of falling in love, and the piercing pain and grief of heartbreak. This claustrophobic, locked-room novel centres around Addie and Dylan, a former couple who are forced to share a car ride to their mutual friend’s wedding after a car accident. In close quarters for the first time since their split, they remember the halcyon days of their relationship and then examine the charred ashes that remain, forcing them to confront what went wrong between them.
Beth O’Leary has done it again. She is one of my auto-buy authors and is always one of my first recommendations when someone wants an uplifting read. Her books are always a comfort, like putting on your favourite warm and cosy cardigan on a cold day. They warm your heart and make you smile. You know you’re getting quality writing and an entertaining story filled with real and compelling characters. The Road Trip certainly ticked these boxes, but it also had a slightly more sedated tone. It is still funny, but it focuses more on the emotion of the story than the author’s previous books.
The storytelling is compelling and as the story progresses we see that Beth has cleverly woven together two love stories about the same couple. I love how she always finds a way to put an original spin on the traditional romance tropes to create something special. I really enjoyed the contrast of seeing the beginnings of their love story and how the author explored the nuances of love and heartache through the two timelines. We see them in the heady days of falling in love: the passion that sizzles between them and how they can’t bear to be apart. And then it’s demise: the anger and bitterness of betrayal, andhow the person you once shared everything with is now a stranger.
As always, Beth has filled the story with an entertaining and familiar cast of characters. Along for the ride with Addie and Dylan – and driving up the tension – are Addie’s siter Deb, Dylan’s best friend Marcus and Rodney, who they don’t know but the girls took pity on and agreed to take to the wedding. I had a soft spot for feisty Deb and loved any scene she was in. I could easily read a book with her as the protagonist as she is just so entertaining to read.
Fun, fresh and surprising, The Road Trip is a heartwarming and uplifting novel that is the perfect summer read.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Beth O’Leary is a Sunday Times bestselling author whose books have been translated into more than 30 languages. She wrote her debut novel, The Flatshare, on her train journey to and from her job at a children’s publisher. She now lives in the Hampshire countryside and writes full time.
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this beautiful novel. Thank you to HQ for the invitation to take part and the gifted ARC.
How can you ever move on, if you can’t let go?
‘A gorgeous book about second-chances, brimming with love and overflowing with hope’ Milly Johnson
A beautiful and poignant story of love, loss and finding hope where you least expect it, perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes and Cecelia Ahern.
Anna’s world was shattered three years ago when her husband Spencer was killed in a tragic accident. Her friends and family think it’s time she moved on, but how can she when she’s lost her soulmate?
On New Year’s Eve, Anna calls Spencer’s old phone just to hear his voicemail greeting. But to her surprise someone picks up. Brody answers and is the first person who truly understands what Anna is going through. As they begin to speak regularly, Anna finds herself opening up and slowly she discovers how to smile again, how to laugh, even how to hope.
But Brody hasn’t been entirely honest with Anna. Will his secret threaten everything, just as it seems she might find the courage to love again?
“That’s the funny thing about the future, isn’t it? We have all these plans, some small, some grand, but things don’t always work out the way we expect them to.”
The Last Goodbye is a story about love, loss and letting go. A story about finding joy in life, finding your strength and learning to dream again. Beautiful, heartbreaking, hopeful and uplifting, it is a story that will make you thankful for those you love and treasure all you have.
The author addresses the many different facets of grief in this story and writes with an honesty and sensitivity that really makes you feel what the character does. She explores questions such as how do you start again, rebuild your life and your future without the person who was supposed to be there beside you? And how can you hope and dream again when your hopes and dreams were shattered in an instant? She also explores the idea that there is an acceptable time limit on grief and how you can’t move on until you are ready. And how moving on looks different for everyone.
An aspect of the book that particularly resonated with me was Lucas’ examination of anxiety, panic attacks and agoraphobia. Once again they are written with sensitivity and honesty and, as someone who has, and still does, experience these things, she has perfectly described how they make you feel. It was so vivid that I could almost feel my own heart racing alongside theirs.
I really liked Anna and Brody. They are great characters that I warmed to quickly. I was rooting for them and felt invested in their fate, both individually and as a couple. I liked their relationship, how they found solace in this stranger at the other end of the phone, how they inspired each other and helped each other find parts of themselves they thought were lost forever. Obviously, I was desperate to know what the mysterious Brody’s secret was. I had some ideas but didn’t get it right and thought the author did a wonderful job of making him so enigmatic, slowly unveiling parts of him to Anna and the reader at the same time. It had me on tenterhooks and made it impossible to put the book down. I needed answers!
Tender, affecting, bittersweet and poignant, if you’re looking for a wonderful story that will give you all the feels, then this is the one for you.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Fiona Lucas is an award-winning author of contemporary women’s fiction. She has written heart-warming love stories and feel-good women’s fiction as Fiona Harper for more than a decade. Fiona lives in London with her husband and two daughters.
Today I am delighted to be sharing with you the beautiful cover for The Art of Loving You, the latest book by Amelia Henley, which is published on July 22nd by HQ.
The brand new emotional and heart-breaking novel from Amelia Henley. Perfect for fans of Rebecca Serle, Josie Silver and Sophie Cousens.
* * * *
They were so in love . . . And then life changed forever . . . Will they find happiness again?
Libby and Jack are the happiest they’ve ever been. Thanks to their dear friend, eighty-year-old Sid, they’ve just bought their first house together, and it’s the beginning of the life they’ve always dreamed of.
But the universe has other plans for Libby and Jack and a devastating twist of fate shatters their world.
All of a sudden life is looking very different, and unlikely though it seems, might Sid be the one person who can help Libby and Jack move forward when what they loved the most has been lost?
The Art of Loving You is a beautiful love story for our times. Romantic and uplifting, it will break your heart and then put it back together again.
I am delighted to share my review for this uplifting debut. Thank you to Orion for the invitation to take part in the tour and for my gifted ARC.
Could one split second change her life forever?
Hannah and Si are in love and on the same track – that is, until their train divides on the way to a wedding. The next morning, Hannah wakes up in Paris and realises that her boyfriend (and her ticket) are 300 miles away in Amsterdam!
But then Hannah meets Léo on the station platform, and he’s everything Si isn’t. Spending the day with him in Paris forces Hannah to question how well she really knows herself – and whether, sometimes, you need to go in the wrong direction to find everything you’ve been looking for…
After a romantic break in Venice, Hannah and Si are on their way to his sister’s wedding in Amsterdam. Then, following a calamitous series of events, Hannah finds herself stranded alone in Paris with no passport, luggage, purse or phone. At the station she meets Leo, a suave, handsome French man who while vexing her at first, slowly reveals himself to be everything that Si isn’t. Could a series of mistakes have led Hannah to what she didn’t know she was missing all along afterall?
Charming, absorbing and uplifting, this was the perfect Valentines read. Wonderfully cliched and featuring my favourite romance trope – enemies to lovers – this was pure heartwarming escapism. I travelled through the pages to Paris as the author’s vivid imagery brought the city to life. It felt like I was there alongside Hannah exploring the city and enjoying Leo’s guided tour of the city of love. I have been to Paris once, on a day trip during a French Exchange trip when I was a teenager many years ago, and I found myself reminiscing and wanting to get out my grainy photos of that rainy day. It has also made me want to go back with my partner and see the city through fresh eyes, a little like Hannah did in the story.
The story and characters are richly drawn and compelling, the author crafting a novel that is part contemporary love story and part self-discovery. Hannah and Leo are entertaining and compelling characters and the story is richly drawn and transportive. It was like I could hear Leo’s French accent and picture his darkly handsome features. I could feel the anxiety and frustration radiating from Hannah, and later her inner turmoil as she began to question so many things about her life.
Funny, engaging and utterly delightful, this debut is a welcome escape and the perfect pick-me-up for those lockdown or winter blues. I highly recommend this book and can’t wait to read more from the author in the future.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Lorraine Brown previously trained as an actress and has recently completed the final year of a postgraduate diploma in psychodynamic counselling. She lives in London with her partner and their 8-year-old son and can usually be found writing in coffee shops, feeling guilty about not going to the gym and watching too much Netflix. Uncoupling is her debut novel and is being published in the UK by Orion and in the USA by Penguin Random House (as The Paris Connection), as well as in Germany, The Netherlands, Italy, Portugal, The Czech Republic, Croatia and Turkey.
Published: February 4th, 2021* Publisher: Piatkus Format: Kindle, Audio Genre: Humorous Fiction, Contemporary Romance *Hardcover out March 25th
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this heartwarming debut. Thank you to Frankie at Little Brown Book Group for the invitation to take part and the ARC.
When Amy Ashton’s world fell apart eleven years ago, she started a collection.
Just a few keepsakes of happier times: some honeysuckle to remind herself of the boy she loved, a chipped china bird, an old terracotta pot . . . Things that others might throw away, but to Amy, represent a life that could have been.
Now her house is overflowing with the objects she loves – soon there’ll be no room for Amy at all. But when a family move in next door, a chance discovery unearths a mystery, and Amy’s carefully curated life begins to unravel. If she can find the courage to face her past, might the future she thought she’d lost still be hers for the taking?
Perfect for fans of Eleanor Oliphant and The Keeper of Lost Things, this exquisitely told, uplifting novel shows us that however hopeless things might feel, beauty can be found in the most unexpected of places
“We all have baggage. No one travels lightly anymore.”
Amy Ashton is not your typical literary heroine. Standoffish and strange, Amy lives alone in a house that resembles an episode of hoarders. But to Amy her house is perfect; full of the treasures she collects and protects. But I soon discovered that beyond that spiky outer shell is a nuanced, vulnerable and caring woman whom I adored. The story itself was also full of surprises. I was immediately enamoured by the author’s prose and quirky tale and soon found there were unexpected layers to the book waiting to be discovered, including a mystery that grew like the ivy in Amy’s wild back garden. I was hooked.
I’ve found that a lot of the debuts I’ve read over the last year have been outstanding, and Everything Is Beautiful certainly fits that current mode. Full of pathos, heart, charm and wit, I devoured this book and got lost in Amy’s world. The story is told in dual timelines with flashbacks that are linked to specific items in Amy’s collection. Through these chapters the author tells the story of each item’s meaning to Amy, the memories it evokes, and slowly unveils how she became this way, piece by piece; each one waiting to be discovered by the reader like one of Amy’s treasures. These flashbacks also give an insight into who Amy used to be; when she was vibrant and happy and just like any other young woman you might meet.
“Her house was fairly full, of course, but that was because it was filled to the brim with treasures.”
But Amy isn’t the only compelling character in this story. The author has created a cast of characters that are all equally important to understanding Amy and her story. I was particularly taken with young Charles and Daniel, the two little boys who have moved in next door to Amy and decided she is their friend. One of the great things about kids is they don’t see the world as adults do and they can see the beauty in a person when adults only see someone weird. I loved seeing Amy through their eyes and how they slowly brought out a different side to her we might not have seen if they hadn’t moved next door.
This is an absolute must read. Uplifting, warm and wistful, this is a beautiful story that will linger long after reading and has gone straight onto my forever shelf. It reminded me of a combination of Eleanor Oliphant and The Illustrated Child, which are two other debuts I adore.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Eleanor Ray has an MA in English Literature from Edinburgh University and works in marketing. She lives in London with her husband and two young children.
Eleanor was inspired to write EVERYTHING IS BEAUTIFUL by the objects her toddler collects and treasures – twigs, empty water bottles and wilting daisies. She is currently working on her next novel.