I requested my copy of this novel from the publishers via Netgalley. This review forms my honest opinion.
Nell Stevens’ life is a mess.
When her business goes bust and her fiancé with it, Nell’s happy ever after in California falls apart and she moves back to London to start over. But a lot has changed since she’s been gone. All her single friends are now married with children, sky-high rents force her to rent a room in a stranger’s house and in a world of perfect Instagram lives, she feels like a f**k up. Even worse, a forty-something f**k up.
But when she lands a job writing obituaries, Nell meets the fabulous Cricket, an eighty-something widow with challenges of her own, and they strike up an unlikely friendship. Together they begin to help each other heal their aching hearts, cope with the loss of the lives they had planned, and push each other into new adventures and unexpected joys.
Because Nell is determined. Next year things are going to be very different. It’s time to turn her life around.
I was due to read this earlier this year, but then the virus happened and publication was pushed back, and so I, in turn pushed it down the TBR pile. I really wish I hadn’t, because this would have been the perfect antidote to the entire March to June period.
Witty, filled with hope, fun and just completely and utterly joyous – I don’t think I could have loved this more. I sailed through it in just a couple of days and I’d get all giddy-happy when I figured out some stolen unscheduled reading time here and there simply because I was so invested.
Nell is brilliant. Told from her point of view, this is a story of self discovery. This is what happens after the happily ever after crashes and burns, and I found myself nodding along, completely relating to her experience of life. Her character leaps from the page and I challenge any woman of a certain age not to find something in her that chimes. Although a few short years off forty yet, I found myself nodding along when she was talking about how you become invisible after a certain age. But then Cricket turns it around and tells her that invisibility is a superpower, and oh my goodness, that woman is just everything! Cricket, an 8o-odd year old widow is a somewhat unlikely friend for Nell (at least in terms of ‘societal expectations’ but who gives a Christmas fig about those!) and she is brilliant. I want a Cricket in my life. She’s sharp, witty and so full of life. Put simply. I love her.
After returning from the US following a break up with her fiancé, and the failure of their business, Nell finds herself renting a room from a grumpy landlord. As she settles back into life in the UK, reconnecting with old friends, reassessing her job prospects and attempting to jump back into the romance pool via online dating, she pours her dissatisfaction into a podcast. ‘Confessions of a Forty-Something F**k up’.
It felt as if Bridesmaids and Bridget Jones inspired parts of this novel and some storylines felt familiar, but in familiarity is recognition and comfort, and despite these parallels, the characters are so well drawn that they took the story and ran with it on their own terms. They’re a great bunch, all believable and each with their own set of problems that feel true to life.
This book has also started new habits for me. At the end of each fictional day, Nell writes a gratitude list; things that she is grateful for. And whilst these can often be a great source of humour on her darker days, I was so taken by this idea of creating personal perspective and finding the good, even when it’s very well hidden amongst a shed load of rubbish that’s hurled your way – that I now do this before I go to bed every night, and I have to say it’s incredibly therapeutic.
Out in hardback on 31st December, this truly is a book which feels right for a new year. Far more fun than an exercise DVD, it shouts loudly of accepting and enjoying your own life, living it on your own terms and to question what may be behind the glossy IG facades we’re bombarded with. Something I, for one needed a reminder of.
NOTE: I’ve just seen that the author has a sizeable back catalogue – New Year reading taken care of!!