Synopsis: When a tragedy breaks a family apart, what can bring it back together?
The Birds seem to be the perfect family: mother, father, four children, a picture-book cottage in the country. But when something happens one Easter weekend, it is so unexpected, so devastating, that no one can talk about it. The family shatters, seemingly for ever. Until they are forced to return to the house they grew up in. And to confront what really took place all those years ago.
Kat’s Rating: 4/5
Kat’s Review: The Bird Family on the surface seems to have it all. However this book tells the tale of what goes on behind closed doors. Loreli and her husband Colin have 4 children – Megan. Bethan, and twins Rhys and Rory. The descriptions of their beautiful and rambling house in the Cotswolds made me want to visit. The story actually spans over a long time frame continuously flicking back and forth in time frames. This is down with ease and you feel like you are peeling back layers with each part of the story that is revealed. Other than that in terms of story I really don’t want to elaborate for fear of ruining the element of surprise.
The synopsis gives away very little and I think this adds to the beauty of reading the story with no idea of what will happen. There is an element of sadness to Lisa Jewell’s books which makes them pretty realistic and poignant and this one is no different. Loreli has become an obsessive hoarder and this element of the story and how it impacted her family made for absorbing reading. This book was full of intrigue and the characters made you not want to put the book down. It wasn’t the best Lisa Jewell book I have read, however a fantastically solid read that will keep you turning the pages.
My Rating: 4/5
I tend to get around to Lisa Jewell’s books a lot later than they are published and I make the same mistake every single time (doh!). I pick up the book, devour it and fall in love with her latest novel. I then tell myself I’m an idiot for not reading it sooner and then by the time the next one comes around I do it all over again. With this book released in 2012, here I am again making the same mistake. With Jewell’s latest book it feels almost like she has taken a departure from her usual topics and delved into something a little bit different. In the beginning of this book we meet Betty Dean as a young girl who has moved to Guernsey to live with her Grandmother. When her grandmother dies and leaves something in her will to a mysterious woman named Clara Pickle, Betty is determined to find the woman.
On a mission to find Clara Pickle Betty arrives in grungy, 1990s Soho, ready for anything. This is the first element of the book and the second element involves Betty’s Grandmother Arlette growing up in 1920’s London. I really liked Betty’s character and adored the fact that she was seeing London through a young girls eye’s in the nineties (my age is showing somewhat there). Although I really liked Betty I was surprised to learn that I actually liked Arlette’s story just as much. I had stupidly made the assumption that London in the 1920’s would be a little boring and predictable, how wrong was I?
I was quickly drawn into both women’s lives and the nice thing about this book is that the layers are revealed gradually. The more we learn about Arlette, the more we see Betty discover about the mysterious Clara Pickle. I didn’t particularly like the fact that a rock star happened to live opposite Betty when she moves to London, but the story was driven the right way in my opinion.
Any other outcome for that particular storyline may well have ruined the book for me. Arlette and her friends from that era were extraordinary and I really could picture their hedonistic and glitzy lifestyle in the twenties. Although this was a slight move from Jewell’s usual stuff I loved it and thought the story was heartfelt and very interesting. I was certainly hooked and found that the slight element of mystery surrounding Arlette made it that little bit more intriguing.
I managed to read the last quarter in a couple of hours and found myself once again berating myself for leaving it so long to read this book. I wouldn’t say it was my favourite Lisa Jewell book but it made a refreshing change to read something a little different and I would certainly recommend it.
My Rating: 5/5
Well it has been 11 long years since Lisa Jewell released a book entitled Ralph’s Party. She wrote and I read Ralphs party (unbelievably) 11 years ago and even back then her writing was great.
In Ralph’s Party we meet the residents of 31 Almanac Road, who consist of flatmates Ralph and Smith and their new neighbour who moves in, Jemimah. Upstairs live Karl and Siobhan and they have been unmarried for fifteen years albeit happily. When Cheri moves in to the flat above them she causes havoc by deciding that Karl is the man she wants and sees no reason that a girlfriend should get in the way. The book itself leads us into their lives and sees the end result with both Ralph and Jem getting together and leaving the book with that happy ever after feeling.
However, Lisa Jewell decided that 11 years later she would transport us back to Ralph and Jem’s current relationship with her book entitled After The Party. So a few years down the line we find that Ralph and Jem are unmarried, but living together with their two young children. Things are not all sweetness and light and Jem is feeling unsettled with just about everything. She is currently trying to raise her demanding and Diva like daughter Scarlett, still nurture her baby boy Blake, and keep her career going with a difficult client as well as keeping her marriage to Ralph on an even keel.
Both Ralph and Jem find that life doesn’t seem that simple anymore. Jem begins to feel quietly disgruntled with everything that Ralph does and Ralph is feeling more and more like he’s not even part of his own family. Slowly they realise that their ideal family life that they viewed all those years ago through rose tinted glasses is nothing like their present reality. Whilst Jem and Ralph both go on their own paths of discovery they both wonder at whether their relationship can survive. Will they make it through or will they be like the thousands of others that have tried and failed to make a marriage work.
Firstly, I cannot believe that an author has finally made the fantastic move to revisit a previous `happy ending’ story. I really enjoyed Ralph’s Party but found that not only did I enjoy this current book, but I fell in love with the characters all over again. Lisa Jewell has exceeded every expectation I could have imagined and produced an absolutely first class book. She didn’t take the easy option of the characters being 100% happy with a perfect life. This book is far from what most would expect an easy `chick lit’ author to produce. Lisa Jewell tackles all of the gritty real life issues that couple who are married and with a family may encounter.
She managed to keep the spirit of these characters but yet developed them as older and wiser from what they were in Ralph’s Party. There are some sensitive issues that I think are dealt with incredibly well although I’m reluctant to be specific as I don’t want any spoilers in my review. The story is started with the current situation that Jem finds herself in and slowly introduces the past year and the story unfolds as the reader gets further into the book. What I also loved was the fact that the author didn’t rush the ending and the reader is still wondering what will be the outcome right until the last few chapters. I cannot praise this book enough and would highly recommend it to anybody. It’s isn’t necessary to read the first book Ralph’s Party but for those that have I think this is a wonderful way to look at the progression of Ralph and Jem’s life. An absolutely fabulous read that can’t be awarded anything other than 5 out of 5. Get out there and get yourself a copy!