Many thanks to Kate Keehan of Hodder & Stoughton for the invitation to take part in this blog tour. I received a copy of the book in advance to prepare this review, which is an honest account of my opinion.
Diana O’Toole’s life is going perfectly to plan. At twenty-nine, she’s up for promotion to her dream job as an art specialist at Sotheby’s and she’s about to fly to the Galápagos where she’s convinced her surgeon boyfriend, Finn, is going to propose.
But then the virus hits New York City and Finn breaks the news: the hospital needs him, he has to stay. But you should still go, he insists. And reluctantly, she agrees.
Once she’s in the Galápagos, the world shuts down around her, leaving Diana stranded – albeit in paradise. Completely isolated, with only intermittent news from the outside world, Diana finds herself examining everything that has brought her to this point and wondering if there’s a better way to live.
But not everything is as it seems . . .
Jodi Picoult is one of my favourite authors. Nineteen Minutes is one of my favourite books ever, and My Sister’s Keeper will forever hold a special place in my heart. Despite this, her last novel ‘The Book of Two Ways’ was a book of two halves for me. The beginning so dense with Egyptology research that, as impressive as it was, I struggled to connect with the characters as I would normally expect to. However, the second half delivered in spades, and I struggled to put it down from that point on.
I’ll admit to approaching this book with some trepidation. As excited as I was to read her latest book (and believe me, I was very excited!), my anxiety lay solely in the topic. It takes place during the pandemic. We’re still living it, and I wasn’t sure if I was ready to have my reading – my time of escape, to be intruded by the virus too.
One of the things I love most about Jodi Picoult’s books are the attention to detail. Peppered with little bits of knowledge, casting sideways and turning a 2D character in to someone very real. And I think this was done incredibly well here. Diana is a character that I felt connected too. There was something about her that resonated with me and I found myself pulled into her story almost immediately. But it was the development of her character that kept me onside, willing to go wherever she did, so that even when she made some questionable decisions I understood why.
Wish You Were Here feels very different to the books that have come before. This one feels reflective and very human. It’s a consideration of what life is, and how we spend it, very much a product of the pandemic itself, and for that reason I found comfort in it. When forced to slow down, as Diana is, there are questions we need to ask of ourselves. And I think that will ring true for an awful lot of people in terms of their own experience of lockdown.
There are elements in it that are more difficult to read. A true account, particularly in terms of Finn’s experience as a doctor and all of the medical elements and implications. But the book is really about Diana, and her seeking out what really matters. What makes a life? And I honestly think, even if you have been touched in the worse way possible by COVID19, there is comfort in this from the stories and research woven into the narrative from survivors themselves. The experiences in this novel are not complete fiction, they draw on real life and there is hope and love within them.
Wish You Were Here, as far as I’m concerned is a triumph. Successfully covering a difficult and very current topic with sensitivity and cause for hope. The result is very life affirming. Whilst it doesn’t quite knock Nineteen Minutes off my personal top spot, I’m quietly confident it will feature in my top books of this year. This is a very special book and it deserves a place on any bookshelf.
Published on Thursday 25th November
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