A lifestyle blog from a forty-something mum

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Life, Death and Vanilla Slices - Jenny Eclair

Life, Death and Vanilla Slices, Jenny Eclair, Book reviewDon't be fooled by the seemingly easy-going title of the latest release from Ms Eclair. This book packs a punch from page one and doesn't sugar-coat any of its sharp observations about the complex nature of family life. If you're a fan of black comedy and love a rollercoaster of a read, chances are you'll love this book.


Is it wrong to have a favourite child? Jean Collins had two daughters, Anne and Jess, but loved only one of them. She couldn't help herself.

Years later - Jess is missing and no one knows what happened to her. And Anne has long since escaped to London and left her troubled upbringing behind.

When Jean is left in a coma after stepping out into the middle of the road and being run over by a motorbike, it's Anne who heads back up north to sit with her mother. But why was her mother distracted? And why was she carrying a box of vanilla slices - a treat reserved only for special occasions?

Returning to the house where she grew up, Anne leaves her two ungrateful sons and a husband who's
career-minded, but clueless to their own devices. She is forced to confront the past and discovers a few secrets that were buried a long time ago.


I loved the narration from the two main characters throughout the book. Anne's rant about what it is to be middle-aged and peri-menopausal had me collapsed in a fit of giggles. And anyone who's ever shared a house with teens will identify (although, hopefully not too much) with the descriptions of Anne's sons, Nat and Jools.

Although Jean isn't a particularly likeable character, she is one of life's survivors and I couldn't help but feel sympathetic towards her by the end of the book. I constantly had to remind myself that part of the novel was set in the 1960s and 70s when attitudes towards women were so very different from those of today. 

Occasionally additional characters sneak in and add to the narrative. I love that the story unfurls from different perspectives as this adds to the mix of this heart-breaking family drama. There are many skeletons in the family closet and one by one they are revealed. This family has had more than its fair share of tragedy and Anne and Jean have learnt to deal with the past and move on with their lives without ever knowing what happened to Jess.

The novel is pacey throughout and I was so desperate to reach the final page that on a sleepless night, I snuck downstairs and devoured the last hundred pages like a thing possessed. And although I thought I had the ending all sussed, it turns out I wasn't even close. Expect a clever twist at the end of this compelling read, which is really very satisfying.


Perfect for anyone who loved The Woman who Went to Bed for a Year by Sue Townsend. Life, Death and Vanilla Slices is dark, hilarious and compulsive reading.

Rating 5/5

Until next time...

Copyright©2014 Izzie Anderton


  1. Sounds like my kind of book! I loved reading Camberwell Beauty years ago. Will have to check this out. Thanks for a great review hon x

  2. Loved Camberwell Beauty here too, so much so that it made it into my top five reads of all-time! Thanks for taking the time to comment x

  3. Sounds really good! I loved The Woman Who Went to Bed... so maybe I should check this one out. Thanks for reviewing.

  4. ooh I was looking for a new read, I will download this, thank you!! :)

  5. This sounds brilliant. I'm always on the lookout for new books so I think this is going to the top of my kindle list. Great review/ #pocolo

  6. The Mothers say - This sounds an intriguing read and definitely worth a read.......
    Lucas says - ........ after you've bought the Haribo, Mother dearest!!!

  7. What a fab sounding book. I love Jenny Eclair so will beg, borrow or steal a copy (something else from that era, yes?) x

  8. This sounds like my kinda book! I love Sue Townsend but have never read Jenny Eclair. I can imagine that, if she writes anything like her persona, it is a very punchy book. One for my list :) Thank you for linking to PoCoLo :) x

  9. Sounds so up my street, must read this! Thanks for linking up lovely, if you can add my badge or link back at the bottom of each post linked up, I'd appreciate it! Thanks for linking up to #brilliantblogposts

  10. This sounds brilliant - I'm going to add it to my Christmas reading list!

  11. Wow! 5 out 5. I have added to my book to be read list. Thanks for sharing this book!

  12. Sounds like my kind of book! I loved reading Camberwell Beauty years ago. Will have to check this out. Thanks for a great review hon x


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