Book Review: The Summer Job by Lizzy Dent

“Have you ever imagined running away from your life?
Well Birdy Finch didn’t just imagine it. She did it. Which might’ve been an error. And the life she’s run into? Her best friend, Heather’s.
The only problem is, she hasn’t told Heather. Actually there are a few other problems…
Can Birdy carry off a summer at a luxury Scottish hotel pretending to be her best friend (who incidentally is a world-class wine expert)?
And can she stop herself from falling for the first man she’s ever actually liked (but who thinks she’s someone else)”

The book starts with best friend’s Birdy and Heather in London. Heather is supposed to be working a summer season at a hotel in Scotland – but instead wants to jet off with her current ‘this is it, real love for definite this time’ boyfriend to Italy and ditch the sommelier job. Birdy is supposed to be calling the hotel to tell them Heather can’t go – but instead, decides to go and do the job herself – but doesn’t admit to Heather that this is what she’s doing.

The hotel in Scotland isn’t the run down property that Heather and Birdy were expecting – instead it’s been massively done up and is a beautiful ‘place to be seen’. I have to say that the setting and the Scottish countryside is so well described it made me want to visit immediately. To go and stay in a beautiful hotel, on the banks of a loch, with amazing food and wine flights – bliss………

Birdy is clearly totally out of her depth as ‘Heather’ as soon as she arrives – but she works super hard to get up to speed on the wines – and the team at the hotel become really important to her. Her loyalty to her new friends – and to Heather – is what keeps her going and working so hard.

Whilst the book is generally a fun, light hearted read – with some real laugh out loud moments – it does also cover some heavier topics – alcoholism, being the child of an alcoholic, gaslighting by parents and partners, bullying, friendship – but all as part of the over riding storyline.

Most of the characters were lovely – if slightly flawed in some way. The only one I couldn’t stand was Tim, Birdy’s on / off boyfriend. He was an utter knob – and she could do so much better.

The ending surprised me, and it’s more convoluted that you had expected throughout the book – but I still liked it.

Overall a really lovely read. It’s out in just a few days time – so I’m not tempting you too far in advance!

Thanks to Net Galley and the publisher for my ARC.

Book Review: The Best Things by Mel Giedroyc

I love Mel Giedroyc, so when I heard she had a fiction book out – I jumped onto NetGalley and was kindly given an advance review copy. Here’s the blurb:

“Sally Parker had a morbid fear of big social events and it was for this reason that she was crouching down low in the shoe section of her wardrobe…
Sally Parker is struggling to find the hero inside herself.
All she wants to do is lie down.
Her husband Frank has lost his business, their home and their savings, in one fell swoop. Their bank cards are being declined. The children have gone feral. And now the bailiffs are at the door.
What does an ordinary woman do when the bottom falls out?
Sally Parker is about to surprise everybody.
Most of all herself.
A big-hearted story of a family on the brink, The Best Things is a life-affirming tale of failing, falling and finding a way back up.”

There were incredibly mixed reviews on NetGalley – and so I was a bit wary of starting this – but seeing that Marian Keyes and Graham Norton had enjoyed it, I gave it a go. Then I saw Mel interviewed about it on Lorraine the next day (I’d left it very close in the ‘advance’ department to start reading it!) and she was so warm and funny, and said that some of it was based on real life – when she and her family lost everything some years ago – which gave it a different edge.

The first third of the book is the Parker family in their fancy house in Leatherhead. Sally is part of the ladies who lunch / gym / charity fundraise set – and she and her ‘friends’ appear to have more money than sense. (I have to say they reminded me of certain people who live in the village next to ours!!) Frank has a very successful hedge fund business, the kids are all at private school, the house is full of ‘help’ and all is well in their bubble. The referencing of the price of items from the local farm shop was so true!! Sally’s Mum sees them very much as ‘new money’ (which we’ve had thrown at us as an insult in the business class lounge for Emirates at Birmingham Airport by a tweed clad stuck up old crone who was just how I imagined Sally’s mother to look!!)

Then – things go horribly wrong. Frank’s business crashes and he becomes ill and all the material trappings are taken away from them. Sally tries to save the day with help from her one true friend – the dog groomer – when her other ‘frenemies’ take flight.

The reaction of the children was interesting – and different for each one (the concern at lack of phones and devices would be very similar in this house should the same situation arise!)

There is then a cross UK train / road trip for all of the characters which brought its own tales. It then concludes in Wales – but I’d really like to know what happened to everyone next.

There are a lot of characters in the book – the Parker family, their staff, their extended families, colleagues, friends, school friends – and that sometime felt a bit chaotic. There are some real laugh out loud moments – but not as many as I’d hoped for given Mel was the author.

Overall it was a fun, easy, escapist read – but it didn’t set the world on fire and I’m not sure it would have been published if it wasn’t a celebrity author. Thank you to Net Galley and the publisher for my ARC.

Book Review: The Frequency Of Us by Keith Stuart

Last year I loved the BBC2 Book Club programme “Between The Covers” presented by Sara Cox. Recently she revealed the books which will be featuring on the upcoming new series – and ‘The Frequency Of Us’ really appealed, and NetGalley were lucky enough to grant me an advanced review copy. Here’s the blurb:

“In Second World War Bath, young, naïve wireless engineer Will meets Austrian refugee Elsa Klein: she is sophisticated, witty and worldly, and at last his life seems to make sense . . . until, soon after, the newly married couple’s home is bombed, and Will awakes from the wreckage to find himself alone.
No one has heard of Elsa Klein. They say he was never married.
Seventy years later, social worker Laura is battling her way out of depression and off medication. Her new case is a strange, isolated old man whose house hasn’t changed since the war. A man who insists his wife vanished many, many years before. Everyone thinks he’s suffering dementia. But Laura begins to suspect otherwise . . .”

The book follows two timelines – firstly back during the Second World War and the romance between Will and Elsa, and then 2008, where Laura is assigned Will as a client for the care agency that she’s working for.

(This did actually make me realise that it would be difficult to write a book in the present day with people having memories of the Second World War. My Grandmother – who died at the age of 90 two years ago – was an evacuee during the war. My children have been so lucky to be able to talk to their Great Grandma about her experiences when they’ve studied evacuees at school. As the last few people of her generation pass away, so do the real life stories of the war, which has made me quite emotional.)

I enjoyed both timelines a lot – and I have to say the city of Bath was a character in the book in its own right. The descriptions of it were excellent – and it’s made me want a weekend break there (when we’re allowed again, obviously!)

The relationship between Will and Elsa was beautifully written – and I wanted to find out more about them. Equally the very different relationship between Laura and Will is also interesting, if not conventional. Laura has so much ‘stuff’ going on in her own life, and her struggles with her own mental health – that being able to focus on helping Will seems to help her too.

The comparison of young Will (radio geek, passionate about his work. madly in love with Elsa) and old Will (grumpy, rude, loner) were excellent – and as the story develops you realise why this has happened.

The book also looks at Laura’s past and her relationship with her every present Mother – and absent Father – and why this has made her the person she is today. It’s not been an easy life for Laura or Will.

The run up to the ending was really unusual – and not what I’d expected at all. I don’t even want to compare it to anything (although I have a book and a TV programme that I could easily reference!) but I think it’s better reading it without any spoilers at all.

Overall I enjoyed the book and a big thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for my ARC – but you don’t need to worry, as if you like the sound of it, it’s out now so you can order it immediately!

Audiobook Review: Rebel Ideas by Matthew Syed

I have always enjoyed watching Matthew Syed on the Sky News paper review – finding him very sensible and level headed, and taking a reasonably middle of the road view on most topics. Then, when on holiday with my parents in Summer 2019, and the paper review came on, and I voiced my Matthew Syed appreciation – my Mum proceeded to tell me that Matthew’s father, Abbas, had been her tutor for an accounting qualification in the mid 90s – and how proud he’d been of his table tennis playing champion son! I didn’t realise Matthew had had this prior career – or the family connection – how totally random is life sometimes?!?

Then in Autumn 2020 I was out for a walk with a friend – and she raved about the new book she was reading ‘Rebel Ideas’ by the aforementioned Matthew Syed. Obviously, I impressed her with my story – but the premise of the book really interested me. This particular friend and I often enjoy the same fiction books – but now it was time to see if the same could be said for non fiction.

Here’s the blurb:

“Where do the best ideas come from?
And how do we apply these ideas to the problems we face – at work, in the education of our children, and in the biggest shared challenges of our age: rising obesity, terrorism and climate change?
In this bold and inspiring new book, Matthew Syed – the bestselling author of Bounce and Black Box Thinking – argues that individual intelligence is no longer enough; that the only way to tackle these complex problems is to harness the power of our ‘cognitive diversity’.
Rebel Ideas is a fascinating journey through the science of team performance. It draws on psychology, economics, anthropology and genetics, and takes lessons from a dazzling range of case-studies, including the catastrophic intelligence failings of the CIA before 9/11, a communication breakdown at the top of Mount Everest, and a moving tale of deradicalization in America’s deep South.
It is book that will strengthen any company, institution or team, but it also offers many individual applications too: the remarkable benefits of personalised nutrition, advice on how to break free of the echo chambers that surround us, and tips on how we can all develop an ‘outsider mindset’.
Rebel Ideas offers a radical blueprint for creative problem-solving. It challenges hierarchies, encourages constructive dissent and forces us to think again about where the best ideas come from.”

I started listening to the book back in December 2020 on my school runs up and down the M5 – but then Christmas and the subsequent lock down meant trips in the car on my own were few and far between – so it’s taken until the return to school recently for me to finish the audiobook (read by Matthew himself).

I have to say I enjoyed it from the off. The first chapter looks at the ‘Collective Blindness’ of the CIA in not uncovering the 9/11 plot before it happened. Primarily because the members of the CIA were all of a certain ‘type’ and didn’t believe that some ‘tall bloke with a beard in a cave’ could actually plan such a catastrophic event. Clearly I’m paraphrasing, and the book is much more informative. The attention to detail in Matthew’s writing is excellent and satisfies the inner geek in me immensely.

As well as 9/11 there are other significant events that are used to prove the theory behind the benefit of diverse thinking. From the staffing of Bletchley Park (randomly I read a fiction book about the site at the same time), a fatal Everest expedition, to the beginnings of wheeled suitcases – it covers a huge array of topics, but all looking at the power of diverse thinking.

On an incredibly smaller scale, I’ve seen the power of diverse thinking in my own marriage! I’m a geeky, girlie swot, teacher pleasing, rule following, pedant, chartered accountant whereas my husband is dyslexic, with no formal qualifications, a rule ‘bender’ and an entrepreneur – but therefore the different things we bring to the table in our family life, to our kids, and in the construction business we run together, is definitely greater than the sum of our individual parts. I think the same also goes for my friendship groups. My politics is fairly middle of the road – but I have real life friends, and social media friends, who are much further left and much further right than me. This makes for interesting discussions (generally in real life – I try to avoid controversy on social media!) but I think makes me a more rounded person for being happy to have those discussions. As Matthew says in the book – society has become so polarised, many people on social media exist in an echo chamber where the points of view they see, exacerbated by the algorithms on sites such an Facebook and Twitter, are only the ones they agree with.

The maths graduate in me enjoyed the ‘Beyond Average’ chapter a lot (although the most recent averages I’ve done was for home schooling Year 4 and Year 6 maths) I enjoyed the way Matthew had such a varied set of examples to back up his views – which makes the book feel really well researched.

I can totally see why my friend was so passionate when talking about ‘Rebel Ideas’ – and I completely concur that it has made me stop and think (and espouse the principles to anyone who will listen!).

In a full circle back to my family story, the book is dedicated by Matthew ‘For Abbas. my inspirational father’ – perfect.

I’ve just noticed the Kindle edition of Rebel Ideas is currently only 99p on Amazon – so I would highly recommend you download it immediately if you want to read something a bit different that makes you think over the Easter weekend.

Book Review: The Best Is Yet To Come by Katy Colins

I’d seen the praises of this book being sung on Intsagram and requested a copy off NetGalley – here’s the blurb:

Sometimes it’s the things we don’t say that we need others to hear the loudest . . .
Izzy has always taken everything in her stride but motherhood is proving more difficult than she thought. She keeps telling herself it’s just a phase but the dark clouds are starting to appear.
Neighbour and widower Arthur might be in the winter of his life but he’s not ready to be packed off to a care home. He’s determined to do things his way.
When Izzy hears about Arthur’s big move, she offers to help. But Arthur isn’t telling her the whole story. It takes courage to admit you need a friend and when you feel invisible, all you need is a ray of hope. After all, what if the best is yet to come?”

I have to confess that when I first started this, I was concerned it was going to be a rehashing of books that have been done before. Soooo many ‘new Mum’ books where the husband is a completely selfish idiot (and Izzy’s husband is exactly that) and then the recent Mike Gayle book ‘All The Lonely People‘ where an octogenarian befriends a young, single Mum. But actually, ‘The Best Is Yet To Come’ soon found its own voice.

Izzy is struggling with the demands of a new baby – and her husband, Andrew, is out at work all day and then still socialising with friends and doing sport in the evenings – he is so selfish and really needed a slap.

Arthur is struggling having lost his wife almost two years before. He has a nephew who looks in on him – but otherwise is all alone.

They strike up an unlikely friendship, along with Izzy’s baby daughter Evie.

Both parties gain so much more from their friendship than they first expect.

I also really liked the way the peripheral characters – other neighbours in their cul de sac, Joan at the charity shop, the vicar – and all interwoven through the book – just like they would be in real life.

Whilst this is a light, fluffy, gentle hug of a book – it also deals with post natal depression, loneliness, suicide and sudden death – but not in a ‘heavy ‘way. It’s a really lovely, simple read.

I really enjoyed this – and was in floods of tears at the end (mostly due to the surprising thoughtfulness of a teenager – with a couple of my own, I know how rare that is!)

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my ARC – although it came out 3 days ago, so you can buy it right now if you like the sound of it.

Book Review: The Castaways by Lucy Clarke

I was offered an advance review copy of The Castaways and having enjoyed Lucy Clarke’s last book ‘You Let Me In‘, I kindly accepted the offer – so here’s the blurb:

A SECRET BEACH.
A HOLIDAY OF A LIFETIME.
WISH YOU WERE HERE?

THINK AGAIN…
It should be like any other holiday.
Beautiful beaches.
Golden sunsets.
Nothing for miles.
You’ll never want to leave.
Until you can’t…
Gripping, twisty and full of sun-soaked atmosphere, THE CASTAWAYS will whisk you far away to the island – and never let you go.

The book is based around the story of Erin and Lori who are sisters. They are supposed to be going on holiday together in Fiji – but after doing the International flight they have an overnight stay before an internal island hop flight. During this evening they have a row and consequently only Lori makes the flight the next morning. Then the flight disappears.

The book is told from Erin’s point of view now – 2 years later after she’s spent the intervening time trying to find out about her sister’s disappearance, and then from Lori’s point of view back 2 years ago.

Having sisters myself I really enjoyed how the relationship between them was written. That they could annoy each other and bicker and argue – but at the end of the day their sisterly bond was so strong. As well as the bond between sisters it also looks at friendships / infertility / infidelity / survivor guilt / stranger dynamics – but all in an entertaining way.

The backdrop of Fiji is beautiful – but also quite suffocating. I’ve never been to Fiji – but the jungle descriptions really reminded me of St Lucia or the Seychelles – hot, sweaty, dense, full of strange noises and animals – but then next to beautiful sandy beaches. In particular the descriptions of the dusk outings of bats was really reminiscent of our time in the Seychelles – they were scary, even with a G&T in hand. I wouldn’t have wanted to sleep outside in any of these tropical countries, and was far happier in my air conditioned hotel room!!

I don’t want to give too much of the storyline away – we all know I HATE reviews that contain spoilers – but it’s safe to say it twists and turns brilliantly and kept me intrigued and wanting to read more. In particular the pace builds up to the last few chapters and you flip and flop (and flip flops are worn lots!) between whether it’s going to be a happy or sad ending. It was brilliant – and I loved the actual ending because it wasn’t what I expected – but again, no spoilers.

I would say it’s a perfect holiday read – but I’m not sure I’d want to read it when I was about to go on a plane?!?

Thank you to NetGalley and Harper Collins for my ARC. It’s out electronically already, and in hard back later this month, if this has whetted your appetite!

Book Review: The Split by Laura Kay

When I was offered an advance review copy of this by the publishers, I said ‘yes please’. Whilst I read a lot – I don’t think I’ve ever read a chick lit style book (I know it’s not the most complementary of descriptions – but you’ll know what I mean if I write that) where the main characters are gay. I have to say it wasn’t an important part of the book – the relationship woes were exactly the same as any book in this genre. Here’s the blurb:

A brilliant, heart-warming and intensely funny story of love, heartache, friendship and family. Perfect for fans of Marian Keyes and Beth O’Leary.
Brutally dumped by her girlfriend, Ally is homeless, friendless and jobless… but at least she has Malcolm. Wounded and betrayed, Ally has made off with the one thing she thinks might soothe the pain: Emily’s cat.
After a long train journey she arrives home to her dad in Sheffield, ready to fold herself up in her duvet and remain on the sofa for the foreseeable. Her dad has other ideas. A phone call later, and Ally is reunited with her first ever beard and friend of old, Jeremy. He too is broken-hearted and living at home again.
In an inspired effort to hold each other up, the pair decide to sign up for the local half marathon in a bid to impress their exes with their commitment and athleticism.
Given neither of them can run, they enlist the support of athletic, not to mention beautiful, Jo. But will she have them running for the hills… or will their ridiculous plan pay off…?”

Whilst the book starts with the breakdown of Ally’s long term relationship with her girlfriend Emily, the real story of the book is Ally finding herself again. She’s clearly lost herself in Emily’s shadow over the years – not really thinking for herself at all – but over the course of the book finds herself again. This is with her relationship with her Dad, her old friend from school Jeremy, Jo who runs the local running group, and the women that own the local bakery. Each relationship brings something else to the table and all are really well written.

I loved Ally and Jeremy’s friendship – and how it developed over the book from initially feeling a bit wary and forced back together by their parents – to actually being inseparable BFFs!

Sheffield itself plays a starring role in the story. Having visited the city for the first time last year to visit my cousin, I hadn’t realised it was so hilly (built on seven hills, just like Rome – which I can imagine is a bit like when locals to me say ‘Birmingham, do you know we have more canals than Venice?’) Walking from my cousin’s flat into town for dinner was exhausting – so running round there must be horrific – and so I could really imagine how Ally and Jeremy struggled!

Ally’s relationship with her Dad was also lovely – and evolved during the book. He was a typical old school Dad and found it hard to help Ally – but you knew he had her back 100%.

Overall this was a lovely, easy read and I really enjoyed it.

Book Review: The World At My Feet by Catherine Isaac

I’ve enjoyed Catherine Isaac’s previous books (both under this name and Jane Costello) so when I saw this on NetGalley I requested an advance review copy and was lucky enough to be granted my wish!

Here’s the blurb:

The dazzling new novel from Richard & Judy book club author Catherine Isaac, The World at my Feet is a story about the transforming power of love, as one woman journeys to uncover the past and reshape her future.
The secrets that bind us can also tear us apart…
1990. Harriet is a journalist. Her job takes her to dangerous places, where she asks questions and tries to make a difference. But when she is sent to Romania, to the state orphanages the world is only just learning about, she is forced to rethink her most important rule. 
2018. Ellie is a gardener. Her garden is her sanctuary, her pride and joy. But, though she spends long days outdoors, she hasn’t set foot beyond her gate for far too long. Now someone enters her life who could finally be the reason she needs to overcome her fears.
From post-revolution Romania to the idyllic English countryside, The World at My Feet is the story of two women, two worlds, and a journey of self-discovery that spans a lifetime.”

Now, I read a spoiler – accidentally in a NetGalley review – and that really altered my reading of the book. It didn’t ruin it – but it did mean I was waiting for a certain thing to be uncovered – so I would 100% recommend NOT reading any spoilers (why do people do that? It’s soooooo annoying!)

The book intertwines two timelines and two people’s story – Harriet and Ellie. Both are really well written and I wanted to learn more about both time periods.

I remember the press coverage of the situation in Romania in the 1980s when I was a child – so I could really imagine these sections of the book. The descriptions of the orphanages are really graphic in a disturbing – but necessarily so – way.

The ‘current’ timeline centres on Ellie who is a gardening influencer and agoraphobic and how she tries to manage her fears.

The relationships between the women – but also Ellie with her sister Lucy, her hunky new yoga teacher bloke, her friendly garden centre delivery man, and the cleaner’s son are all beautifully described and explored.

There are so many layers to the book – its really lovely and escapist. The ending in particular was wonderful.

A huge thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for this advance review copy.

Book Review: Eternity Leave by Simon Kettlewell

When someone says ‘Would you like to read a book my friend’s written?’ it’s a bit concerning. What if it’s really rubbish – how can you not offend? Anyway – my friend described this as a semi autobiographical novel by one of her friends, who has 4 lovely kids, and it is from a Dad’s point of view, and kind of like the ‘Why Mummy‘ series. So I thought I’d give it a go.

I need not have worried – it is brilliant!

Here’s the blurb:

ETERNITY LEAVE:
A MUST READ FOR ANY PARENT…
FOUR CHILDREN. ONE MAN. HOW HARD CAN IT BE?…
Dear Chloe, Emma, Ruby, and Ollie,
‘I am applying for the position you haven’t advertised, has no specific job description and no hope of fiscal reward. I am applying because I have this misguided belief that it will look like it does on the cover photo of ‘The Complete Guide to Childcare’ where everyone appears relaxed and bright-eyed, not knackered, irascible or covered in snot.
Armed with a pristine copy of ‘The Complete Guide to Childcare’, ambitions to be the next literary giant and live off the grid, what could possibly go wrong?
‘Five minutes after Brigit’s maternity leave ended I realised the magnitude of my error. I was now the sole carer for two six-month old children who thought the hands smearing yoghurt over their faces belonged to somebody else, and a two-year old who walked for five steps and decided it wasn’t for her.’
I crashed into a world of mainly strong, resourceful, resilient women, a mountain of nappies to rival Kilimanjaro and a widening gap where my self-esteem used to reside.’
I am a man. I soon discovered this was not an excuse…’

The book is written from the point of view of the narrator – but you never find out his name. It’s very cleverly written in that way – he’s either Brigit Wheeler’s partner (not husband!) or Chloe, Emma, Ruby and Ollie’s Dad. This is very much in keeping with how he feels about his life.

Each chapter is either ‘now’ when the children are teenagers or ‘before’ as the children are babies and new ones are being born. And each chapter has a fact as a sub heading – kind of like Bridget Jones’s diary but with less fags or concern about his weight – such as:

Fact: The volume of Calpol administered, 4 litres
or
Fact: Number of baby wipes, 134,000

Both time periods had brilliant reference points that I totally ‘got’ (we have a teenage son who complains about the ‘laggy’ internet, and a teenage daughter who worked out the likelihoods of different driving test routes – and equally the memories of Tumble Tots and parent and toddler group singing came flooding back).

The village and classroom politics was really well observed – and the Mum guilt that Brigit experiences, because she’s out being an NHS bigwig in the local hospital every day, was also brilliantly portrayed. Tony Blair is quoted a couple of times for saying that running the country was easier than being a stay at home Dad – and my husband would concur, albeit running a construction company rather than the country. He said this when the kids were little – and the recent ‘joy’ of home schooling has only strengthened this belief!!

There were also similarities with our lives as we also have 4 kids – and similarly 3 girls and a boy, although in a different order, and no multiples here. I remember being asked on holiday, when the youngest was tiny, how on earth we coped with 4 kids. The eldest – then 8 years old – said dead pan ‘we have a nanny‘ – in our case an employed nanny – not a 7 year old from up the road like Lucy Harper. We also have a ridiculously vicious cockerel – although ours is called Oscar not Roy – but they appear to have been cut from the same cloth. (I also hadn’t realised cockerels weren’t vital to egg production when we first got chickens – we are similarly failing small holders as well).

The book describes the relentlessness of being a stay at home parent brilliantly. I was once asked if I was a stay at home Mum, to which I replied ‘God no, I’d kill one of them’ – ironic that the question had been asked by a paramedic as we were being blue lighted to A&E with a small child with a head injury spurting blood!

Throughout the book I was nodding along in agreement, laughing at how true to life it was – and in the final few chapters crying. I found the end really moving in lots of different ways – which was a bit of a surprise to be honest.

There are A LOT of ‘Mummy’ books on the market – some, like the ‘Why Mummy……’ series are brilliant – but some really seem to be band wagon jumping (you can imagine a publisher thinking ‘this Mummy Blogger has loads of social media followers, let’s get her to bang out a book, that will sell well) and there’s an awful lot of dross – to the point that I stopped reading them. What sets this apart is firstly that it’s written from a male perspective, secondly that it covers the whole age range of children from birth to leaving home and finally – it’s really very well written.

It’s free on Kindle Unlimited – and only £1.99 if you need to pay for it – and it’s definitely worth half a coffee (especially when you can’t even go out for a coffee at the moment anyway!).

Book Review: Life’s What You Make It by Phillip Schofield

I feel like Phillip Schofield has been part of almost my entire life. In fact, my declaration of love for him as a teenager was recently uncovered written on the wall at my parents’ house, it had been under wall paper since the late 80s! It’s been papered over again now – but will be there forever on a wall in suburban Birmingham. I watched Phillip in the broom cupboard after school each day, then onto Going Live on a Saturday morning. In the summer of 1992 we went to see him in Joseph as the last family city break before I went off to University – my parents (when clearing out their loft last year) passed the programme from that day on to me! I’ve watched the various game shows and events he’s hosted – and clearly now it’s This Morning and Dancing On Ice when I get chance.

My Mum recently announced she’d just finished reading Phillip’s autobiography – so I borrowed it. Here’s the blurb:

“For forty years we’ve watched Phillip on our tellies, from children’s TV to This Morning and Dancing on Ice, but what is it like on set and who is he when the camera’s off?
In Life’s What You Make It Philip for the first time takes us behind the scenes of his remarkable career.
From his idyllic childhood in Cornwall, where for years he pestered the BBC for a job, eventually landing a prize position in the Broom Cupboard with mischievous sidekick Gordon the Gopher, through hosting Going Live!, starring in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat and finally finding his on-screen home and presenting-partner Holly Willoughby on This Morning, Phillip takes us on the highs and lows of his extraordinary life.
‘For a long time, I felt that I couldn’t write this book. At first, I didn’t think I’d lived enough, then life got busy and filled with distractions. In more recent years, there was always a very painful consideration – I knew where it would eventually have to go.
‘I have recently decided that the truth is the only thing that can set me free. The truth has taken a long time to make itself clear to me, but now is the right time to share it, all of it.
‘Television and broadcasting has been a part of my DNA for as long as I can remember. As a young boy I would make model TV sets out of cardboard boxes, while spending long summers at home, barefoot on Cornwall’s golden beaches. Landing a job at the ice-cream kiosk, I would enviously look on as my presenting heroes took to the stage of Radio 1’s Roadshow, an unforgettable event when it came to town.
‘In Life’s What You Make It I look back with nostalgic delight on my life, from being a young boy endlessly writing letters to the BBC in pursuit of a job in broadcasting, to making it on to the Broom Cupboard, with my infamous sidekick Gordon the Gopher, to being on Going Live and starring as the lead in Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. It has taken four decades to get here but I feel lucky to have called the sets of Talking Telephone Numbers, The Cube, Dancing on Ice and of course, This Morning, home.
‘I’m going to take you behind the scenes of my television home at ITV, into my career and my dangerously funny relationship with Holly Willoughby. I’m going to introduce you to my loving and remarkable family, and I hope most of all to tell you that life, it seems, is what you make it. Take it from someone who has sat on the very edge and looked over, it’s all about the people that love you, and after that anything is possible. So, finally, here we go, this is the real me.’

The book starts with Phillip growing up in Newquay in Cornwall. This is an area really close to my husband’s heart as his family spent a lot of time down there in his youth – and when we went to visit the beach at Crantock where his Mum’s ashes are scattered, one of the local landmarks he pointed out was where Phillip’s family lived back in the day. It was interesting reading Phillip’s exploits as a child (and my husband agrees you couldn’t beat a Matthew’s pasty!)

It then moves through Philip’s professional, personal and family life in chronological order – with the occasional addition of a more recent story. The amount and detail that Phillip remembers is amazing (aided by the diaries he kept – one of which had ‘Life’s What You Make It’ written on the front.) I am a naturally nosey person – so I really enjoyed this. I knew that he’d moved to New Zealand for a while – but reading all about that was very interesting. And as lots of the radio and TV Phillip has done I remember watching at the time (the caller who swore at Five Star on Going Live anyone?!) it was a really memory jogger for me too.

In another similarity with my husband, when Phillip is stressed he cleans – which is exactly what Mr P does in this house too. Maybe it was something in the Cornish water in the 1970s and 80s?!

The book does kind of build to ‘the event’ – when Phillip came out in February 2020 (just before the entire world went to pot – although I don’t think the two are connected!) Phillip says he could never have written this book without being honest – and so that had to have happened before it was written. It’s strange – but like I’ve blogged before – there aren’t many times where you can remember exactly where you were when something happened – for me 9/11 and when Princess Diana died – but now I can add ‘when Phillip Schofield came out’ to that list. I was having a pedicure! First the ‘news alert ‘ flashed up on my phone – and then my beauty therapist and I watched the interview Phillip did with Holly on This Morning on a Friday whilst she sorted my trotters out!

Due to the nature of social media nowadays, there is nothing in this book that’s a shock or unknown – but it was still a good read as it charted my television viewing history. I think it would be pointless reading it if you’re not a Phillip fan – but if you are then it pads out lots of the things you already know about him – and there are lots of behind the scenes photos. I wouldn’t say it sets the world alight as a work of literary genius – and it’s very placatory (for example it claims Phillip doesn’t know why Fern Britton suddenly decided she didn’t like him – although she did text Steph (Phil’s wife) after he came out) and there’s no mud slung at all – but it was interesting none the less.

Thanks, Mum, for letting me borrow it. My husband is now pleased he doesn’t have to look at Phillip’s slightly awkward, smug face at the side of the bed or the toilet any more!!