This book is really horrible. I started crying about two thirds of the way through, and then I never really stopped, and the last 50 or so pages were really hard to read because of having to continually blow my nose and dry my eyes. Horrible, horrible.
So, naturally, this book is really, really good and you should read it.
The story is told by Elly and is a story of her and her brother an her best friend Jenny Penny and about Elly’s extended family. Pretty much every character is unforgettable and Winman makes me care deeply about each and every one, even the ones that aren’t entirely pleasant.
Jenny Penny wants to be adopted into Elly’s family, and though I am quite happy with the family I have, I can’t help but feel the attraction. Elly’s parents end up running a bed & breakfast i Cornwall, and I wish they were real, because I want to become a returning guest.
A new decade dawned, and my parents would eventually have guests who returned to them year after year, and who would all be a bit like us – a collage of the useful and impractical, the heady and the mundane.
It often occurred to me that normal people never stayed with us, or if they did it was certainly for no longer than the one eye-opening night.
Few of the relationships in the book are straightforward, and I guess it is telling when “We raised our glasses and were about to toast the queer union” (p. 239) refers to Elly’s aunt intending to marry a man, and “queer” is both highly ironic and precisely the right word.
On the whole Winman’s choice of words is spot on, and I found myself wanting to underline turns of phrase on almost every page. Early on Elly is given a rather ridiculous-looking coat by a neighbour and her parents make her wear it out of politeness, and she observes:
although it was keeping the cold at bay, I felt it was simply because the cold stopped as it approached me and burst into laughter, rather than by any practical means.
(p. 61) And the book is simply littered with such gems.
In short, a book I can wholeheartedly reccommend. This is Sarah Winman’s debut. I, for one, am looking forward to her next book.