Don’t get me wrong, I love a good romance novel. The kind where two impossibly perfect people fall in love and live happily ever after. I don’t care how ‘unliterary’ they are, sometimes it’s lovely to kick back, knock back a glass of wine and escape into an idyllic world.
But, then there is the rest of the time. The time when life is falling down around your ears, all you feel like you do is shout at the kids, things aren’t going right and quite frankly reading these novels feels like a pointy-shoed kick in the vagina.
The three main characters; Hannah, Cate and Lissa feel so real; they could be your friend, your neighbour, your work colleague. Through them, I felt seen as a woman. That it’s ok that I’m not perfect, indeed that perfection isn’t normal and that we all are just trying the best we can with the hand we’ve been dealt.
The novel explores friendship and what it means to be a woman in society today. The portrayal of women, warts and all, reminded me so much of Nobody’s Wife by Laura Pearson, particularly in terms of Lissa’s story. For such a long time women within books, television and film have overwhelmingly been portrayed as unattainably perfect. Shiny and prettily rounded, but yet in real life we have sharp edges, we are not perfect and we make poor choices. Too often there have only been two types of women available to us; the heroine and the bitch. When in reality, aren’t we all a little bit of both? Haven’t we all done things we’re ashamed of? Said things we shouldn’t? To read a novel where women are accurately portrayed and are not defined by a single poor choice is refreshing to say the least.
One of the elements of modern womanhood which I felt came through really strongly was the pressure we are under. So many times I see younger women on Twitter stating their panic that they don’t know what to do with their lives, or that it feels like their friends have everything and they’re being left behind, as if we only have a few ‘good’ years and everything has to be squeezed in right there and then. Cate, Hannah and Lissa are the product of this world, the expectation that they feel to achieve, not only for themselves but to feel accepted as a ‘success’ by society; careers, motherhood, relationships, it all spirals into something so unachievable. It really made me sit and think hard about the expectations I have placed on myself and in all honesty this novel was almost a form of therapy in itself, allowing me to let up and forgive myself for not being everything I thought I should be.
The story charts their friendship and their lives individually over a number of years and is seen from each woman’s viewpoint. Narratively, I did find it difficult to follow at times – however, as I read a Netgalley ARC, this may have been made clearer and more definitive by the time of publication.
My only disappointment was with Cate’s storyline. I think though, because she was the character I most identified with and her story mirrored my own life in so many ways, I placed my own experiences and expectations upon her character. For me, her transition period from how she was feeling as a new Mum to how her story concluded felt a little rushed and ignored. That being said, I felt both Lissa and Hannah’s stories were pitched perfectly.
Emotional and relatable; these women could be real. An incredibly honest novel about modern day women in all our imperfect glory. I cannot more highly recommend.
Hannah, Cate and Lissa are young, vibrant and inseparable. Living on the edge of a common in East London, their shared world is ablaze with art and activism, romance and revelry – and the promise of everything to come. They are electric. They are the best of friends.
Ten years on, they are not where they hoped to be. Amidst flailing careers and faltering marriages, each hungers for what the others have. And each wrestles with the same question: what does it take to lead a meaningful life?
*I received an arc via Netgalley. The decision to read was my own, and this review forms my honest opinion.