I am a book reviewer for NetGalley, which means I received this book for free in exchange for a review. Click here for more information.
Author: Sophie Duffy
Genre/category: General Fiction
Release date: 5th April 2018
Where can I buy it? Here
Philippa Smith has a newborn daughter. As she waits in hospital – estranged from her husband, with nowhere to go – she recounts her own life story, right from the beginning.
Philippa has an interesting childhood in Devon, and the book starts off with some tragic stories from Philippa’s past, including her relationship with her detached and distracted mother. However it is the people around her – Bob, the fatherly sweet shop owner, Wink, the elderly lady obsessed with Bruce Forsythe and the Generation Game, her friends from school, her mothers’ friends – that keep her afloat, and one of the key messages in the book is that family do not have to be related by blood to care for each other. In fact, it was Bob and Wink whose characters I cared for the most, and felt the most ‘real’ to me. The book is worth reading just for these characters alone. (And without giving too much away, the key part with Wink and the Generation Game thing was just excellent and made me smile all the way through.)
I really enjoyed the nostalgic feel of Philippa’s childhood in the 70’s and 80’s. It felt authentic, a true picture of what it was like to be a child then. In fact, I think I enjoyed Philippa the most as a child. Her relationship with her best friend was incredibly touching, and Duffy writes these chapters well.
The story picks up the pace and covers Philippa’s teenage years, early adulthood, and adult life. There is a long period of time to cover, but the pacing feels right, and Philippa retains her voice throughout. She does, however, make some shockingly terrible decisions. Thanks to Duffy’s skill as a writer, though, I still rooted for Philippa despite it all. I also enjoyed all the pop culture references – obviously The Generation Game, but also Gladiators and Blue Peter to name a couple – and the real events of the eighties and nineties helped to root the story into its time frame and made it feel even more authentic.
The one negative thing I have to say about this book – and it’s the reason I’m knocking two stars off – is the ending. (If you are the kind of person that doesn’t like to know ANYTHING about the ending of books, steer clear of the next paragraph. I don’t give any specific details away, but you might want to stay in the dark completely.)
Throughout the story, Philippa remembers the time capsule her friend buried in Bob’s garden, and the moment where she finally opens it is very poignant and sweet. However, at that moment Duffy writes a huge twist into the story, one that is almost unbelievable. It kind of ties everything up into a very neat little bow, no loose ends. It kind of undid the realistic feel of the story, and to me, undermined some of the story’s central messages about family and friends. It’s a shame, because up to the last moment I was enjoying it.
Despite that, I’d still recommend you give it a read. I can imagine the ending thing is a personal preference and others might enjoy it. The characters are so lovely, and they definitely make up for the ending.