Book Review: Mad About You by Mhairi McFarlane

I bloody love Mhairi McFarlane books – and every time I get one of her ARCs it whizzes to the top of my TBR pile (I recognise I’m an acronym w*nker at this point!!) However I was also a bit nervous. Surely at some point the books couldn’t improve, surely at some point one of them was going to be a bit ‘meh’ – but I shouldn’t have been worried at all. This one is, I think, my favourite to date (admittedly I say this every time!)

Anyway – for those of you who want some info rather than just buying a book because you adore the author – here it is:

Two strangers.
One big coincidence.

Driving each other crazy is just the beginning…
Harriet Hatley is running away from everything.
Getting married.
Her boyfriend’s family.
Her past.
A dream house-share seems like the perfect place to hide, but her unlikely housemate Cal is no stranger to running away himself. And he’s also hiding secrets of his own . . .
Can these two take a crazy risk, face the past and finally find a reason to stay?”

Just before I started the book, it featured in a Stylist article where Francesca Brown (who I frequently got drunk with over 20 years ago!) wrote: ” It’s also telling that some of the biggest titles in the commercially heavyweight genre of “women’s fiction” aren’t anywhere close to the fluffy romance stories of lazy stereotype either. Mhairi Mcfarlane’s moving Mad About You (out 14 April, £7.99, HarperCollins) explores coercive control”

The book starts with Harriet living with her loaded boyfriend Jon. The relationship ends (fairly spectacularly!) and she moves out, and rents a room with Cal. Her path has crossed with Cal before – although neither of them realise that when she agrees to move in.

The storyline then follows Harriet’s relationship with her friends / Cal / her ex Jon – until everything implodes even more when her path crosses with someone else, this time, an abusive ex. You are given the back story of how he controlled her – it was really very emotional to hear what he did.

Anyway – everything then goes spectacularly tits up! It is so well written – and you are totally rooting for Harriet and her loyal friends – old and new. The build up to the climax is amazing – and so well described, it would make a brilliant film / TV series – it’s epic!

Whilst this is a massively entertaining read – I also honestly think it could help people who are in a situation similar to Harriet was, shining a light on the fact there is a way out.

As expected – it’s another fabulous read from Ms McFarlane.

As Fran’s link says above – it’s out in April and you can pre order it now. A huge thank you to the publisher, NetGalley and Mhairi for the advance review copy.

Book Review: Mammy Banter, The Secret Life of an Uncool Mum by Serena Terry

I have often been amused by the social media output of Mammy Banter (I don’t do Tiktok – but it seems to be shared to ‘old person’ social media (Facebook!) too. So when I saw she’d written a book, I requested an ARC from NetGalley. Here’s the blurb:

“From the creator of viral Tiktok sensation, Mammy Banter, comes a hilarious warts-and-all novel about modern motherhood – and how having it all sometimes isn’t what you think it might be.
She used to want it all.
Now she just wants a nap.
Tara Gallagher is knackered. She used to dream of being Beyoncé but suddenly she’s thirty-six – with three kids, a loving husband, a very boring job – and instead of headlining Coachella, she’s in her pyjamas on a Friday night, watching Gogglebox.
It’s time for a mammy makeover. She’s going to show her teenage daughter she’s still cool. She’s going to show her husband she’s still an absolute ride. She’s going to show her colleagues she’s still a Boss Bish.
But most of all, she’s going to prove to herself that she can still be a mum, still work full time, and still be Beyoncé…
The debut novel from viral TikTok star, Mammy Banter

I found this very amusing from the start. Some social media stars have written fabulous books – and others not so much (naming no names) – but this is very definitely in the former camp and was really entertaining.

I liked the main character Tara from the outset – and the fact that she has 3 kids – a teenager, a 5 year old and a toddler – meant lots of scope for child related anecdotes of all ages – and ages I’ve covered with my own tribe.

There were some bits – and some language – that was quite Northern Irish (but hey, I’ve watched Derry Girls, so was totally fine!!) – however I felt like I understood it all even though I’m a Brummie.

I liked the fact that the book covered Tara’s relationship with her husband and kids, her friends (old and new) and her colleagues – it really looked at all areas of her life and how everything intertwined.

Lots of it was so very true to life – the 13 year old daughter who is at one point mortified by her mother’s behaviour (mother AND father in our house!) but then also desperately still needs her parents. I loved the interaction with the smug mother at soft play (reminded me of a hellish experience at Kidzania with the mother of all hangovers one January 1st whilst on holiday!)

It was entertaining, funny, escapist, and very easy to empathise with Tara – a lovely, amusing read. It’s out next month, so not long to wait if it sounds like your bag.

Many thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for my ARC.

Book Review: What Might Have Been by Holly Miller

I adored Holly Miller’s first novel, ‘The Sight Of You’ – so when I read she had a new book coming out in 2022, I jumped at the chance of an ARC.

Here’s the blurb:

“Lucy’s life is at a crossroads. She’s just walked out of her unrewarding job and has no idea about her next step: use her savings to pursue her dream of becoming a writer, or move to London to try and revive her career? It almost seems like fate that on that same night she meets Caleb, a stranger in a bar, and runs into Max, the one-time love of her life.
Should Lucy stay in the seaside town she grew up in, and in doing so, get to know Caleb better? Or should she go to London and reconnect with Max again after he broke her heart a decade ago? It’s just one decision – but sometimes one decision can change the course of your whole life . . .
WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN is a sweeping and unforgettable novel for anyone who has ever believed in destiny and soulmates – or paused to wonder what your life might look like if you’d made a different choice.”

The book starts with Lucy having quit her job. That night she’s in the local pub and meets a handsome stranger, Caleb, and whilst talking to him spots her ex, the ‘one that got away’ a decade earlier, outside and runs out to see him. Then follows two scenarios – in a ‘sliding doors’ esque style – one where she goes to London to a fancy new job and the prospect of hooking back up with Max, and the other where she stays in her seaside hometown of Shorely to try her hand at writing a novel and getting to know Caleb better.

So far so romantic comedy style book. But it is so much more than that.

As with ‘The Sight of You’ Holly Miller’s writing is exquisite and, despite the modern setting, feels like ‘proper’ literature again.

The storylines run concurrently – shifting between ‘Stay’ and ‘Go’ each chapter. I really enjoyed both storylines – and couldn’t pick a favourite. Neither are plain sailing – but both have a fabulous story arc. There are some very clever crossovers where either the same event happens in both storylines – or very different things happen depending on character’s decisions. It was done flawlessly and shows how clever the author – and editor – have been it making it seamless. (I appreciate I am a geek for admiring such things – but it’s a badge I’m very prepared to wear!)

It also wasn’t predictable at all – and Max and Caleb made very different, but both lovely, leading men.

I also LOVED the final chapter – it left you wondering about soulmates and fate and destiny and what ifs – perfect!

This is not a ‘difficult second album’ book – it’s fabulous again. Holly Miller is definitely going to be a ‘go to’ author for me in the future.

Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my ARC – and the book’s out in March 2022, so not too long to wait.

Audiobook Review: Once Upon A Tyne by Ant and Dec

Due to an excessive amount of Audible credits – I decided to download some audiobooks to keep me company in the car when I’m not listening to podcasts / the local radio for the traffic reports / the kids arguing / the 16 year olds eclectic taste in music! As before I’ve stayed with my tradition of non fiction audiobooks and fiction ‘proper’ / Kindle books. I’d been interested in reading / listening to Ant and Dec’s autobiography since it came out – and so this was my first download.

Here’s the blurb:

Ant: as the old Chinese proverb says, ‘Good things come in pairs.’
Dec: and as another Chinese proverb says, ‘If you’ve been in a double act with your best mate for 30 years, why not write a book about all your most memorable moments in three decades of showbusiness?’
Ant: less catchy that one, isn’t it?
Dec: but no less true. And after three decades together, we’ve written that book. Covering everything from a pirate radio storyline in Byker Grove through to the biggest shows on telly, this is our story.
Ant: thirty years, eh? Amazing.
Dec: absolutely. Especially when you consider we are both still 27 years old.
Ant and Dec hold a special place in the hearts of TV viewers everywhere. This is their epic story, with never-before-seen photography and the very best tales from their 30 years in TV.
From their modest beginnings in Byker Grove through to their ‘unique’ time as pop stars and an award-laden TV career, those three decades have flown by in the blink of an eye. They’ve also featured an incredible cast of supporting characters, including their first scriptwriter – (an unknown comedian called David Walliams), Saturday night fun and games with countless Hollywood A-listers and celebrities they torture – sorry, work with – every year in the jungle. Told through the lens of every TV show they’ve made, as well as everything they’ve learnt along the way, this is the riotously funny journey of two ordinary lads from Newcastle who went on to achieve extraordinary things.”

I’m a very similar age to Ant and Dec (27 it would appear!) and can’t really remember life without them in it – and for a long time have known which is which! (Although one story in the book – where they were referred to as Antanddec – as one entity – reminded me of when our next door neighbours kids called both of my children Daisyandluke as they didn’t know which was which. I should point out the neighbours kids were toddlers at this point!)

Anyway – back to the book. It follows the double act from their initial Byker Grove days – and how they ended up in the Grove in the first place, through the pop star years – and then all of their various TV adventures, of which there have been many!

The one thing I was concerned about when downloading the audiobook rather than buying a hard copy – was that I wouldn’t be able to admire any photos – but you get told the link and password to download a copy of the photos – so you don’t have to miss out on the fashion and hairstyle highlights from over the years!!

I have to say it was like reminiscing with old friends – as I’ve been on their entertainment journey with Ant and Dec! It was interesting to have the background goss too. Some of the contributors actually voice their own comments – Cat Deeley, Stephen Mulhern, David Walliams – and then there are some impressions from Ant and Dec for others – like Simon Cowell and Robbie Williams – it’s all very entertaining.

Also – the boys talk through the photos for each chapter, with some reminiscing and funny comments – and I guess that is an extra compared to reading the book – which was a nice touch (and because they voice the audiobook themselves).

I did wonder how they would deal with Ant’s very public (albeit not that it was his choice) breakdown and divorce. After leaving home and their Mams – there isn’t much talk of their private lives at all – and at the end of the book Ant does touch upon his troubles and how it affected him and Dec – and likewise Dec talks about how that – and becoming a Dad (which all happened at a similar time) affected him. They don’t name check their spouses (current – or past in Ant’s case) but it is all dealt with in a grown up and not over excitable / tabloid way.

Overall I really enjoyed the book. I’m not sure there was any earth shattering revelations in it – but it was still an interesting and informative listen. I guess the trouble is nowadays, people don’t really have a ‘private’ life – because everything is shared on social media – and therefore autobiographies don’t really lift the lid on ‘secrets’ – because they would already have been shared on Instagram in the past!

Book Review: The First Day Of Spring by Nancy Tucker

The ARC of ‘The First Day Of Spring’ has been sitting on my Kindle for ages, but NetGalley told me the publication date was 17 February 2022 – so I’d not been rushing to read it – but it turns out it’s already out in some formats anyway (sometimes NetGalley seems to have UK / US publication date issues, as well as only giving the date for some formats – and sometimes I think dates change, or I’m being blonde!) Anyway – if you like the sound of it, you can buy it already. Here’s the blurb:

“‘So that was all it took,’ I thought. ‘That was all it took for me to feel like I had all the power in the world. One morning, one moment, one yellow-haired boy. It wasn’t so much after all.’
Chrissie knows how to steal sweets from the shop without getting caught, the best hiding place for hide-and-seek, the perfect wall for handstands.
Now she has a new secret. It gives her a fizzing, sherbet feeling in her belly. She doesn’t get to feel power like this at home, where food is scarce and attention scarcer.
Fifteen years later, Julia is trying to mother her five-year-old daughter, Molly. She is always worried – about affording food and school shoes, about what the other mothers think of her. Most of all she worries that the social services are about to take Molly away.
That’s when the phone calls begin, which Julia is too afraid to answer, because it’s clear the caller knows the truth about what happened all those years ago.
And it’s time to face the truth: is forgiveness and redemption ever possible for someone who has killed?”

The book follows the story of Chrissie, an 8 year old child who commits a terrible crime – and 15 years later, single Mum Julia and her 5 year old daughter Molly.

With the historic storyline, you know that the crime has been committed from the start – so it’s not really a mystery – you’re just working through how everything happened and Chrissie’s actions were discovered.

This is not an easy read, and at the start I did wonder if I would persevere. Chrissie has such an awful upbringing and her circumstances are so very sad with her witnessing and being subjected to neglect and violence. Whilst it doesn’t forgive what she does – it does go some way to explain it. Her life is just horrible. It’s written in a way that just accepts that is the norm – it doesn’t glamourise or play down the situation – it’s just taken as that is Chrissie’s lot in life. Sadly I expect this is the case for lots of children around the country, it’s just many of us are protected from seeing that on a day to day basis.

To be honest, Julie and Molly’s life isn’t much better – and is equally harrowing at times. There is limited light and shade in this book, it is all pretty dark, although there are glimmers of hope towards the end. You really hope that the chain has finally been broken.

Despite the distressing content, I did want to keep reading to find out how the stories intertwined and played out. Overall I’m glad I persevered, it did really make me think, and was quite ‘different’ in a good way. I’m not sure you could say you ‘enjoyed’ it given the storylines.

The very final chapter is written from a third perspective – which was a clever touch – and particularly how a tooth falling out is dealt with compared to earlier in the story. A real ‘book club discussion point’ I would suggest.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for my ARC – even if it would appear I wasn’t very advanced in reading it!

Book Review: One Night On The Island by Josie Silver

Having enjoyed previous books by Josie Silver, when the publisher asked if I’d like an ARC of her new book out in February, I said yes please! Here’s the blurb:

One cottage. Two strangers.
Every great love story starts somewhere…
Cleo writes about love stories every day. She just isn’t living one of her own.
When the editor of her dating column asks her to marry herself on a remote Irish island – a sensational piece to mark Cleo’s thirtieth birthday – Cleo agrees. She’s alone but not lonely, right? She can handle a solo adventure.
Cleo arrives at her luxury cabin to find a tall, dark, stubborn American who insists it’s actually his. Mack refuses to leave, and Cleo won’t budge either. With a storm fast approaching, they reluctantly hunker down together. It’s just one night, after all . . .
But what if one night on the island is just the beginning?

I LOVED this book! Someone else has described it on NetGalley as like a hug – and I completely agree. A wonderful, escapist read.

The book is mostly set on the tiny island of Salvation off the Irish coast. The descriptions of the setting are fabulous and really evocative – and lots of typically Irish weather! I now want to go there on holiday (although would struggle with limited phone reception and internet access!!) Otter Lodge sounds just beautiful.

I did find the whole concept of why Cleo was going to the island in the first place a bit weird – but then I’m a 47 year old mother of 4, not a single almost-30 year old, so I just decided I should go with it! And actually – it was all very beautifully written.

The mish mash of people on Salvation were amazing – a real collection of characters, all well written and you wanted to learn more about them. I can totally picture knitting club, the shop, the pub – and the boulder – perfectly.

I enjoyed the fact that the book was about friendships, wider relationships and self worth – not just ‘boy meets girl’ – although that element was great as well.

Each night Cleo and Mack tell each other 3 things each whilst lying in the dark – which is very spooky, as my 10 year old and I do that every night when she’s going to bed (it was a tactic to make sure she told me if anything was worrying her after a day at school – but also to ensure it was finite so she didn’t procrastinate bedtime for ages!) The 3 things for Cleo and Mack really mean they get to know random facts about each other.

It felt like the book had concluded at about 70% – and I wondered how the rest of the story was going to evolve – but it did brilliantly, and I really enjoyed the final chunk too. It would make a really lovely Sunday night drama for TV.

One Night On The Island is out in February 2022, another fabulous Josie Silver read. A big thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for my ARC.

Book Review: The Herd by Emily Edwards

The Herd is on many a ‘books to look out for in 2022’ list. Whilst it was written before the pandemic – it is even more relevant now as it’s about whether or not to vaccinate your children. In the book the vaccine in question is MMR – but could equally be the Covid vaccine. Some of the reviews, included that quoted on the cover by the brilliant Clare Mackintosh, says that it will bring about debate – which seems to be already true as some of the reviews already on NetGalley are totally contradictory! Some implying it’s totally pro vaccination – and others that it is totally anti vaccination. I therefore suspect it possibly depends on your own beliefs and thoughts on vaccinations as to what you interpret from the FICTIONAL book.

Here’s the blurb:

You should never judge how someone chooses to raise their child.
Elizabeth and Bryony are polar opposites but their unexpected friendship has always worked. They’re the best of friends, and godmothers to each other’s daughters – because they trust that the safety of their children is both of their top priority.
But what if their choice could harm your own child?
Little do they know that they differ radically over one very important issue. And when Bryony, afraid of being judged, tells what is supposed to be a harmless white lie before a child’s birthday party, the consequences are more catastrophic than either of them could ever have imagined . . .”

You know early on that there is a Court Case – and so something bad is going to happen – but the chapters about the court case – written by many different characters who you don’t fully meet (which was very clever) are interspersed with events from earlier in the Summer.

Some elements of the story are told from Elizabeth’s point of view – and some from Bryony’s – as it builds up to the court case itself. I don’t want to ruin too much of the story line – as I think you need to watch it unfold yourself. There are some red herrings (or pink flamingos!) along the way – so you’re never quite sure how everything is going to pan out.

I have to say I saw elements of myself in Elizabeth (it must go with the name!) being a control freak in general – but also being concerned for the health of a child with underlying issues (when our youngest was first diagnosed with a chronic health condition, I did myself worry about her mixing with unvaccinated children).

As well as Elizabeth and Bry, there is a supporting cast of family, friends and neighbours – all of whom add to the community feel of the book and the street where the two families live. It’s interesting to see the various allegiances – and how these change over the course of events.

One thing I would say, is that I’m not sure it would be a good book for a book club – but purely because vaccines are such an emotive subject, I fear that any discussions on the book would descend into a debate on vaccines in general and people often hold very strong and intransigent views on these – and I suspect this would over shadow talking about the book itself (which I think is written and edited brilliantly).

A massive thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for my ARC. The Herd is out in February 2022 and can be pre ordered now.

Book Review: Breaking Point by Edel Coffey

An innocent mistake. A lifetime of guilt.
Susannah has two beautiful daughters, a high-flying medical career, a successful husband and an enviable life. Her hair is glossy, her clothes are expensive; she truly has it all.
But when – on the hottest day of the year – her strict morning routine is disrupted, Susannah finds herself running on autopilot. It is hours before she realises she has made a devastating mistake. Her baby, Louise, is still in the backseat of the car and it is too late to save her.
As the press close in around her, Susannah is put on trial for negligence. It is plain to see that this is not a trial, it’s a witch hunt. But what will the court say?”

I thought this sounded interesting when the publisher asked if I’d like an ARC on NetGalley and so said yes please.

The book is told from 2 perspectives – the first is Susannah – or Dr Sue as she’s known to millions. She’s a successful paediatrician at a New York hospital, an author of parenting books, and a regular on TV, with a handsome husband and two small daughters. One day – due to stepping up to help her husband by dropping him at work – her usual rigid routine is changed, and consequently she forgets to drop her 6 month old baby to nursery. She’s rushing to get on with a busy list of patients – and because baby Louise is sound asleep – doesn’t realise she’s still in the car seat when she parks at the hospital. Dr Sue hears the alarm going off – when Louise must have woken up – but just assumes it’s a dodgy car alarm and turns it off and asks her secretary to book the car in to the garage. It’s lunchtime before she realises that Louise is still in the car – but by then it’s too late.

The other perspective is Adelaide Gold, a TV news reporter who is assigned the story to cover by her boss. However Adelaide has history with the hospital and Dr Sue herself – as 10 years previously Adelaide’s baby also died, and Dr Sue was the paediatrician at the time. Adelaide’s side of the story covers both now – and what happened a decade ago – and it flicks between the two time periods well, explaining what happened back then and how that has shaped Adelaide’s life.

In the aftermath of Louise’s death – Susannah returns to work and finds solace in her work which has always been a really important part of her life – but this is then used against her when the police decide to prosecute her for manslaughter.

The case is really interesting – and flags up lots of things about working mothers / guilt – and you do wonder how much of it would have happened if it had been Susannah’s husband John who’d left Louise in the car? It’s as if Dr Sue is being used as a scape goat for professional women who don’t want to stay at home and bake cookies.

It also brought to my mind the parallels with the real life events for Madeleine McCann’s mother, Kate McCann, who was heavily criticised for not showing emotion when Madeleine went missing in Portugal 14 years ago – whilst others said it was her professional medic training kicking in. Admittedly Kate didn’t wear designer clothes / handbags / shoes – but some of the digs were very similar.

The court proceedings themselves are written well – and you can imagine it being a TV drama – with the prosecutor playing up to the court room like an entertainer rather than necessarily telling the truth. I guess I was supporting Dr Sue in a ‘there but for the grace of God’ type way as a busy working Mum – whereas the prosecutor’s took great pleasure and pride in the fact this wife stayed at home and was a ‘proper’ mother. I found it really difficult to second guess what the result of the trial by jury would be – and didn’t get it right.

I also enjoyed seeing how Adelaide developed – finally facing feelings that she’d essentially squashed down by keeping busy with work for a decade.

Finally I enjoyed the final chapter – 2 years after the end of the court case – and seeing what had happened to Susannah, Adelaide and their family and friends in that time.

Overall a really good read. Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Stepping Up by Sarah Turner

I’ve read previous books by Sarah Turner in her guise as ‘The Unmumsy Mum‘ and loved them – and I follow Sarah on social media too – so when I knew she had her first fiction book coming out, I hopped onto NetGalley and was chuffed to get an advance review copy.

Here’s the blurb:

Beth has never stuck at anything.
She’s quit more jobs and relationships than she can remember and she still sleeps in her childhood bedroom. It’s not that she hasn’t tried to grow up, it’s just that so far, the only commitment she’s held down is Friday drinks at the village pub.
Then, in the space of a morning, her world changes.
An unspeakable tragedy turns Beth’s life upside down, and she finds herself guardian to her teenage niece and toddler nephew, catapulted into an unfamiliar world of bedtime stories, parents’ evenings and cuddly elephants. Having never been responsible for anyone – or anything – it’s not long before she feels seriously out of her depth.
What if she’s simply not up to the job?
With a little help from her best friend Jory (purely platonic, of course …) and her lovely, lonely next-door neighbour, Albert, Beth is determined that this time she’s not giving up. It’s time to step up.
This is a story about digging deep for strength you never knew you had and finding magic in things that were there all along.”

I absolutely LOVED this book. All of the characters had something going for them – and you were rooting for them all, especially Beth, from the outset.

Now I knew Sarah would write about parenting a toddler brilliantly – and she did exactly that. Ted was a very believable little boy – innocent, but questioning; a distraction for everyone, but also a nightmare when he had a meltdown. In fact all of the relationships were written incredibly well – the sneaky teenager Polly – who was different with her Aunt than when she was with her Grandparents, Beth’s relationship with her parents – and with her best mate (Jory – purely platonic – apart from that one night in Winter 2015 that almost changed things……..) and the blossoming friendship with her octogenarian new neighbour Albert – who types his text messages ALL IN CAPSLOCK.

One minute you’re laughing out loud at something – the next you’re weeping – but isn’t that the sign of a brilliant book?

I loved the way that without even realising it, Beth became indispensable in a way she’d never been before – highlighted in Ted’s new bedtime routine, and how he needed Auntie Beth to put him to bed.

The scene at Polly’s parents’ evening had me giggling – a real catalogue of errors – but the relationship between Polly and Beth changed so much during the book, it was lovely, and really believable.

Sarah also wrote about grief incredibly well – and I suspect some of that is from personal experience too, as I know she lost her own Mum when she was a teenager. One bit really struck me – as it was exactly what a friend said after her son died, she hated the first New Year’s Eve because it felt like she was leaving him in the previous year and everyone else was moving on. Beth voices those same worries about the changing of the years.

There are various twists and turns as the book develops, and it doesn’t conclude in a ‘and everyone lives happily ever after’ way – but it definitely leaves you with lots of hope. I’d REALLY like to know what does happen to everyone, as I feel really invested in their lives!

The book is out in March 2022, and I would highly recommend pre ordering it – it’s fabulous.

A massive thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for my ARC – and to Sarah Turner for writing such a great book in the midst of a global pandemic and the home schooling nightmare!! It’s not often I give 5 stars on NetGalley – but I am for ‘Stepping Up’.

Book Review: Wahala by Nikki May

I’d seen ‘Wahala’ on a number of lists of ‘books for 2022’ – so was delighted to be granted an advance review copy by NetGalley.

Here’s the blurb:

Ronke, Simi, Boo are three mixed-race friends living in London.
They have the gift of two cultures, Nigerian and English.

Not all of them choose to see it that way.
Everyday racism has never held them back, but now in their thirties, they question their future. Ronke wants a husband (he must be Nigerian); Boo enjoys (correction: endures) stay-at-home motherhood; while Simi, full of fashion career dreams, rolls her eyes as her boss refers to her urban vibe yet again.
When Isobel, a lethally glamorous friend from their past arrives in town, she is determined to fix their futures for them.
Cracks in their friendship begin to appear, and it is soon obvious Isobel is not sorting but wrecking. When she is driven to a terrible act, the women are forced to reckon with a crime in their past that may just have repeated itself.
Explosive, hilarious and wildly entertaining, this razor-sharp tale of love, race and family will have you laughing, crying and gasping in horror. Fearlessly political about class, colourism and clothes, the spellbinding Wahala is for anyone who has ever cherished friendship, in all its forms.

The book starts in a Nigerian restaurant in London – and from the start I felt like the book was an education in Nigerian culture. The three main characters all have dual heritage, with Nigerian fathers – some present, some not. Each of the characters is very different – and I can totally see where comparisons with ‘Sex and The City’ have come from.

Simi’s friend from her youth in Lagos, Nigeria – Isobel – arrives on the scene, and is a whirlwind throwing her cash about and trying to spice up the lives of the three friends in different ways.

However, cracks soon start to appear in the friendship between the three friends – and also their home lives. The book’s title ‘ Wahala’ means ‘trouble’ in Nigerian Pidgin – and that is definitely what Isobel brings, even if it’s not immediately evident.

Boo’s life as a part time stay at home Mum – who has had to take more menial work to fit around her home life – is very well observed. I did feel sorry for her French husband – or ‘tubby hubby’ as Isobel christened him.

Simi has completely upset her father by not being a doctor and pursuing a career in fashion instead – and their interactions were very well written. The visit from her father and step mother was a comedy in itself.

Ronke’s quest to replace her permanently absent father with a Nigerian boyfriend have not historically gone well – and so the others have doubts over whether the flaky Kayode really is ‘ the one’. I really liked Ronke’s relationship with her dental assistant – he was a very good friend to her.

My one tiny niggle is there are some MASSIVE coincidences as the book concludes – and in a country of 206 million inhabitants, with almost 15 million in Lagos alone – it does feel a bit unlikely. But hey – sometimes you have to suspend disbelief about coincidences when it comes to literature!

The book twists and turns, and the build up to the end is not what I expected at all – which was great.

The writing is excellent, and the book really evokes the feeling of Lagos – and also the shared culture that the girls have in the UK. I can see why it’s already been snapped up to be a TV series.

What I particularly loved is the final chapter – which is set a few months after the traumatic events towards the end of the book – but is back in the restaurant where the story commenced – I do love little touches like that.

Overall a really good, interesting, educational and captivating read. Thank you to the published and NetGalley for my ARC. It’s out at the beginning of January 2022 – so not long to wait if you fancy it!