A lifestyle blog from a forty-something mum

Showing posts with label Death and Vanilla Slices. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Death and Vanilla Slices. Show all posts

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.

Synopsis

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.


Review

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.


Conclusions

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...

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