A lifestyle blog from a forty-something mum

Showing posts with label Book review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Book review. Show all posts

Friday, 15 April 2016

The Course of Love by Alain de Botton - Book review

As Alain de Botton returns to fiction 20 years after the publication of Essays in Love, this latest release is both accurate and heartfelt in its philosophical observations about  modern relationships.

As soon as we leave childhood and enter the adult world of relationships, we realise that, 'happily ever after,' is not the end of the story. Instead, this is merely the start of the adventure, and learning how to thrive and evolve as a couple can be infuriating and problematic, as well as ultimately worth fighting for.

The Course of Love follows the story of Rabih and Kirsten from the first time they meet and throughout the various stages of their relationship. No topic is off-limits in this perceptive read. Everything from the simplest decisions causing conflict, to insecurity and infidelity is explored in great depth - offering insight into why people behave the way they do. And if the media is guilty of portraying relationships as idealistic, this is a revelation for anyone who believes this to be true.

I found it hard to relate to The Course of Love as a novel. Instead, it felt more like a series of observational notes from the author. There were times when I found the narration patronising and personally, I'd have preferred more dialogue between the two main characters, as well as more humour.

There are also profound observations into the modern world of relationships and what it takes to keep a marriage going when real life takes over from the initial exhilaration and passion of those first few years. From the romantic view that marriage will be perfect, to how to survive when life gets in the way and challenges our beliefs and misconceptions about love, the book covers all aspects of relationships.

The final chapters are a revelation and I suspect that anyone who has been in a relationship for a while will recognise many of the scenarios explored throughout the book. It is reassuring for the reader to know that the perfect relationship is more a work of fiction, than something that is possible in real life. Instead, it's all about understanding what it means to love and be loved, and the many forms this can take.

A thought-provoking read.

Rating 3/5

Thanks to Penguin Books for the advance copy.

Copyright ©2016 Izzie Anderton

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Monday, 13 July 2015

Us by David Nicholls - Book review

Us, David Nicholls, Book reviewIt's not often that I'm compelled to write a book review on the blog. In fact, I've mentioned books only a couple of times previously in a cheats guide to my top five reads (how can anyone pick so few?) and a review of Life, Death and Vanilla Slices by Jenny Eclair.

I spied a review of Us back in November's Good Housekeeping and quickly added it to my reading list. I bought a copy just before we were due to leave for a recent holiday and thought it would make a perfect read - I wasn't wrong.

The follow-up to One Day - I have no idea how I missed all the hype as well as the film - but somehow I just did. I plan on reading this next and seeing the film very soon.

Us tackles the concerns of parenthood, middle age and what it means to stay in a harmonious relationship after so many years. It was a surprising choice for the Man Booker prize longlist in 2014, but failed to make the shortlist. 

Narrated throughout by Douglas Petersen, master of the killer one-liner and on such a different wavelength to the rest of his family that he often feels like an outsider. His wife, Connie is a flamboyant artist and their relationship is based upon the theory that 'opposites attract.' Only child, Albie, takes after his mum with artistic tendencies and plans to study photography at university. Before he leaves though, a Grand Tour of Europe is planned as a final holiday together as a family. Just before they're due to go, Connie reveals that she intends to leave Douglas shortly after the holiday. This throws Douglas into turmoil and he plots to make amends with his wife during the trip and save his marriage.

I identified completely with the character of Douglas as I used to be a biochemist in a previous career and scientists are renowned for their practicality, slight eccentricity and humour in its wackiest form. Hilarious descriptions of a pet drosophila (fruit fly) and the culinary 'delights' of his sister's tuna pasta bake were particularly memorable and deserving of some funny looks as I couldn't help laughing out loud while reading at the beach.

Connie, on the other hand, infuriated me at times as she came across as self-indulgent. I couldn't fathom how she and Albie failed to see Douglas's point of view on so many occasions. As I live with three family members with artistic temperaments it did make me wonder whether some of our miscommunications occur as a result of my completely different take on the world. It was therefore, very insightful.

The observations of a long-term relationship were astute and filled with pathos as well as humour. I willed for Douglas and Connie's marriage to survive as they'd endured several setbacks over the years and emerged from the chaos. Did they make it? I guess you'll just have to read for yourself.

One of those books you'd rather not finish as it's a pleasure to pick up and the chapters are so short that it's hard to find an excuse to put the book down. I didn't want this subtle, but soulful book to ever end.

Rating 5/5.

Until next time... 

Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton

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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

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