Book Review: The Break.

cover117346-medium.pngMarian Keyes is an author I adored in my 20s when she was among the pioneers of a new genre that was felt like it was written just for young women like me.

While I have aged a *tiny* bit since then – and chick lit has gone from strength to strength – her first work of fiction since 2014 still feels like it has been written with me in mind.

The Break has all the elements I’ve always enjoyed in her work, including a strong, yet vulnerable, heroine, moments of dark comedy, the wonderfully eccentric family who would probably drive you insane in real life and a romance that is far from smooth sailing.

Everything feels the same but also different because instead of being in their 20s, the main characters have aged along with me and are now in their 40s – and that actually made me really happy.

Here’s the blurb:

‘Myself and Hugh . . . We’re taking a break.’
‘A city-with-fancy-food sort of break?’

If only. Amy’s husband Hugh says he isn’t leaving her. He still loves her, he’s just taking a break – from their marriage, their children and, most of all, from their life together.

Six months to lose himself in south-east Asia.

And there is nothing Amy can say or do about it. Yes, it’s a mid-life crisis, but let’s be clear: a break isn’t a break up – yet . . .

However, for Amy it’s enough to send her – along with her extended family of gossips, misfits and troublemakers – teetering over the edge.

For a lot can happen in six-months.

When Hugh returns if he returns, will he be the same man she married? And will Amy be the same woman? Because if Hugh is on a break from their marriage, then isn’t she?

It felt more like I was watching this book unfold than reading it because I find Marian’s style of writing so visual. It’s sad, funny, heartwarming and relatable; like a really good, must-watch, soap opera. It’s hard to remember the characters are figments of her imagination and they stuck with me long after I had finished.

Speaking of which, at about 85%, I was in a weird place where I desperately wanted to know how it ended but at the same time didn’t want to stop reading. Part of that was because the book, or rather the author, made me nostalgic for my youth but mainly it was because it’s just really really good.

I hope she has another in the works already.

Format: Kindle.

Price: £9.99.

My rating: It’s got to be five stars.

Thank you to Michael Joseph (via NetGalley) for the ARC in return for an honest review.

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Life with a two-year-old (it’s a bit surreal).

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“Oh, hello Michael,” Freya said conversationally to a man in the entrance of M&S food hall. A man clearly not called Michael.

He looked bemused.

I smiled, a little apologetically, and gave a shrug that was meant to convey: “No idea what she’s on about. Kids, eh!” Mark turned to me with a frown and said: “What exactly do you get up to when I’m at work?”

Well, mainly, I grow ever more accomplished at that shrug.

***

“HELLO!” She shouts at the top of her voice as I push her (in her buggy) into our local co-op. It’s so loud and unexpected it makes me jump. The ladies on the checkouts laugh and wave back. One customer looks shocked, a few others chuckle.

When we go to pay Freya wishes the lady on the till a “Merry Christmas.”

It’s January 5th.

“I think you mean happy new year,” I said.

“Happy new ear,” she said.

“And happy new YEAR to you,” the lady says.

“Happy new ear,” Freya calls again. And again. And…

“Let’s say something else now,” I put in but then the lady behind us in the queue comes to the till and wishes Freya a happy new year so it starts again.

“Did you have a lovely Christmas?” She asks her.

“Great.” Freya responds.

“And were you a good girl? Did Father Christmas come?”

“I don’t like Father Christmas,” she is very definite about this.

“Did you get a lot of Frozen toys?” The lady asks, glossing over the slight to the big fella.

“LET IT GO!” Freya sings. Obviously most things are now said/sung at full volume.

The five of us join in with the next bit.

A man at the next till looks a bit taken aback at the flashmob (thankfully no one is videoing us).

I do the shrug as I wheel her past him.

***

My mum will often look at Freya, shake her head and say: “She’s been here before, that one.”

Usually after she has said something entirely out of character for a two-year-old.

For example, she was sat with her eyes closed once and when I asked what she was doing she said: “Just resting my eyes.” My poorly grandma used to say that. My brother and I would go and sit in her bedroom and she’d drift off after a time. Just to check she wasn’t dead (we were young) we’d ask if she was ok and that was always her response.

Also, sometimes when I ask her to do something she will bow slightly and say: “Yes, m’lady.” I thought I had misheard the first time but she does it consistently now. I can’t say I dislike it. It makes me feel like I’m in a Jane Austen novel.

My favourite, though, is when I ask for her help and she shouts: “I’m on it!” Like she’s working in some high-pressured job. This makes me chuckle every time.

“I don’t know where else she could get this stuff,” my mum ponders.

*shrug*

***

I still don’t know who Michael is.

 

Little Hearts, Big Love

A lesson in toy naming.

Speaking in that slightly shrill way when you know your toddler is about to kick-off and you are desperately trying to prevent that happening by being overly jolly and a bit too loud, I said: “Look! There’s Bear Grylls.”

The heads of three ladies nearby popped up like excited meerkats, whipping around to the direction I was pointing and then looking back at me in a slightly cross, slightly confused way when there was no rugged adventurer in the middle of Matalan.

“It’s her lovey,” I explained, apologetically, quickly pushing her pram towards the toy on the floor and scooping it up without stopping.

She has four loveys but we are terrified of losing them so she has one that is specifically for taking outdoors.

He is an outdoors bear.

It was my husband’s idea to call him Bear Grylls.

Here he is, sadly nothing like the real thing.
Here he is, sadly nothing like the real thing.

The others are called Mollie Rabbit (after a beloved rabbit I once had), Dog Dog (because it’s a dog) and Millie Rabbit (who we bought in a panic when Mollie went missing and we were looking for an exact replica but couldn’t find one and thought she wouldn’t notice it has different ears. It is probably her least favourite.)

It seems like it might have been less problematic to stick to simple names – although there is a naughty part of me that wonders whether there could be a bit of fun to be had…

What’s your favourite toy called? Any named after other famous people I could name drop in unlikely places?