Book Review: The First Time I Saw You by Emma Cooper

I loved the debut novel ‘The Songs of Us‘ by Emma Cooper that was published last year – so when the publisher emailed to ask if I’d like an advanced review copy of her second book I jumped at the chance!

 

The First Time I Saw You

Here’s the blurb:

“Lost:
Six-foot-two Irish man who answers to the name Samuel McLaughlin. 
Has weak shins and enjoys show tunes.
If found, please return to Sophie Williams.
Before Sophie met Samuel she saw the world in grey. 
Before Samuel met Sophie, he never believed in love at first sight.
When they first meet, something tells them they are meant to be. 
But fate has other ideas.
Now they have lost each other and can’t see a way back. 
But they’ve already changed each other’s lives in more ways 
than they ever expected…”

I was slightly nervous before I started reading this that I wouldn’t love it as much as Emma Cooper’s first book – and that had a very distinct USP – and I wondered how she’d follow that – and if she’d have a ‘difficult second album’ issue going – but my fears were totally unfounded!

It starts off in Washington – somewhere the husband and I visited a couple of years ago – and whilst you don’t have to have been to enjoy the book, I loved imagining the places.  I also should confess that the fact Sophie is an accountant was very exciting – as that’s what I trained to do, and you don’t often get accountants as main characters.  I think I’ve mentioned before I’m still annoyed that the TV programmes This Life was based around lawyers rather than accountants – as we had a very similar life in the mid 90s!  Anyway – I digress…………

The book is told from Sophie and Samuel’s point of view week by week – so often you’re hearing the same story from the other person’s point of view – which is really clever.

The settings change – with Shropshire, Wales and Derry also featuring.  (Clearly I imagined Samuel’s family in Londonderry to be exactly like characters from the fabulous TV show ‘Derry Girls’) And one of my friends is going to be very excited that her home town of Machynlleth features!!  But the different geography provides excellent settings.

Rather than having one ‘Sliding Doors’ moment, there are multiple cases throughout the book where Sophie and Sam’s stars aren’t quite aligned – but I found that added to the pace of the book and really made me want to read on.

Whilst the book is based on the two main characters, their relationships with their families and friends are also explored.  I particularly liked the different relationships they had with their respective sisters.  Sam’s parents – Mr and Mrs McLaughlin – are lovely – and I think I might refer to the husband as Mr Price henceforth!

There are some big emotional themes running through the whole book – but without the unusual-ness of Melody’s singing from ‘The Songs of Us’ – and all are integral to the story.  I don’t want to include any spoilers by telling you what they are though……

The epilogue had me WEEPING last night – which seems to be the same effect all of Emma Cooper’s books have had on me – but that is definitely the sign of a good book.

All in all I would thoroughly recommend this book to everyone and anyone!

A big thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for my ARC.

 

 

Book Review: The Songs Of Us by Emma Cooper

The Songs of Us.png

This is another book I saw reviewed in a magazine and then actively sought an advance review copy on NetGalley.   And I was so pleased I did – this book is FAB-U-LOUS.  I think it’s my favourite read since Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – and that is saying something.

Here’s the blurb:

“If Melody hadn’t run out of de-icer that day, she would never have slipped and banged her head. She wouldn’t be left with a condition that makes her sing when she’s nervous. And she definitely wouldn’t have belted out the Arctic Monkeys’ ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’ in assembly at her son’s school.
If Dev hadn’t taken the kids to the zoo that day, then the accident wouldn’t have happened. He wouldn’t have left Flynn and Rose without a dad. Or shattered the love of his life’s heart.
But if they hadn’t seen the missing person report that day, they might never have taken the trip to Cornwall. And, in the last place they expected, discovered what it really means to be ‘Us’.”

Melody is a single Mum – trying to do the best for her 2 children – but with the added complication of a condition that makes her sing songs when she’s nervous.  The eclectic mix of songs she chooses is just brilliant – and the fact she doesn’t get the lyrics right all of the time is amusing and endearing. Both Flynn and Rose have ‘complications’ to deal with – linked too, or probably because of, their father’s disappearance – but all wrapped up in your standard teenage angst.  I thought this particularly well observed and written (mostly because of having teenagers myself!).

I don’t want to give too much of the plot away – and there is a HUGE plot change in the middle that takes the wind out of your sails – but it only adds to the amazing roller coaster the book takes you on.

Whilst the major plot lines revolve around the immediate family – the peripheral characters are also really important and fundamental to the story line in lots of ways.  It was good to see how their stories panned out too.  How people deal with a crisis can be so different – and whilst you can see that, for example, Melody’s Mum has the best of intentions – she does like any crisis to be firmly centred on the impact on her rather than the main protagonist for that specific issue.

I really didn’t want to put this down – even though the final 15% had me weeping LOADS – but it is great.  It’s written well – but not in a ‘I’m a really high brow novel’ kind of way – but in a ‘fun, clever, witty, emotional, entertaining, but still written with eloquence and care’ kind of way.  I can also definitely see this being made into a film / TV series – the soundtrack would be immense!

I’d decided to slot this into my 2018 Reading Challenge as A Book About Mental Health – but is it???

The Songs of Us is published in September – but you can pre-order a copy now.  Thank you Netgalley for my copy.

ETA – have just seen you can download it for Kindle NOW – and it’s only 99p.  DO IT, you won’t regret it!!! 

ETA (again!) – there is a Spotify playlist that goes with the book which is a) brilliant and b) reminds you of the bit of the book where each track appears, which is just lovely!