Book Review: Pretending by Holly Bourne

Pretending

I really enjoyed Holly Bourne’s first adult fiction (adult as in not YA, not as in porn!) How Do You Like Me Now – so when I saw her new novel on NetGalley, I requested an advance review copy – but my wish wasn’t granted until a couple of days before publication – but at least that means if you like the sound of it you can buy it now and not have to wait!

Here’s the blurb:

“He said he was looking for a ‘partner in crime’ which everyone knows is shorthand for ‘a woman who isn’t real’.

April is kind, pretty, and relatively normal – yet she can’t seem to get past date five. Every time she thinks she’s found someone to trust, they reveal themselves to be awful, leaving her heartbroken. And angry.

If only April could be more like Gretel.

Gretel is exactly what men want – she’s a Regular Everyday Manic Pixie Dream Girl Next Door With No Problems.

The problem is, Gretel isn’t real. And April is now claiming to be her.

As soon as April starts ‘being’ Gretel, dating becomes much more fun – especially once she reels in the unsuspecting Joshua.

Finally, April is the one in control, but can she control her own feelings? And as she and Joshua grow closer, how long will she be able to keep pretending?”

The main character in the story is April – and on the surface this looks like a normal ‘women’s fiction’ book – but this is not a tale of cupcakes, cushions and kittens – and should probably come with a trigger warning of the sexual abuse content.

April’s been ‘unlucky in love’ #crapphrase – but it soon becomes evident that there is a much darker element to this – and actually she was raped by a previous boyfriend. The description of rape and the aftermath is really moving – and thought provoking – it definitely made me stop and think.

Also, April works for a charity helpline – and so whilst she lives with the aftermath of what has happened to her all of the time, it’s also ignited more by triggering emails from people – on both side of the ‘abuse’ fence. It really made me think about such charities too – and what great work they do with so little funding.

Anyway – back to the book.  April decides that she is going to get ‘revenge’ on mankind by pretending to be ‘Gretel’ – the perfect girlfriend and the majority of the book follows this and her relationship with Joshua.

It is really well written – and the thread of the PTSD from her abuse whilst being fundamental – is only part of the storyline.  I really enjoyed April’s relationships with her flatmate Megan and her workmates.  There was also the start of relationships with women she met at an unusual support group – and I really enjoyed reading about that – but it felt like they weren’t really fleshed out during the book itself (but I hope April continued to build on their help and support after the book finished, in the fantasy world I create for characters once books have finished………….)

Overall I really enjoyed this thought provoking book, another good one from Holly Bourne.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for my ARC.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: How Do You Like Me Now? by Holly Bourne

Last year – I gave ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ as a gift to a number of friends because I loved it so much and just wanted to share the love.  Thankfully they all agreed it was a great book (could I have remained friends with them if they hadn’t?!?)  One of these friends reciprocated recently, sending me an Amazon gift card with the explicit instructions that I had to buy this book!  She’d been gifted it too – so was passing on the book love (a trend I very much plan to perpetuate):

How do you like me now

 

Here’s the blurb:

“‘Turning thirty is like playing musical chairs.  The music stops, and everyone just marries whoever they happen to be sitting on.
Who the f*ck is Tori Bailey?
There’s no doubt that Tori is winning the game of life. She’s inspired millions of women to stick two fingers up at convention with her bestselling memoir, and she has the perfect relationship to boot.
But Tori Bailey has been living a lie.
Everyone around her is getting married and having babies, but her long-term boyfriend won’t even talk about getting engaged. And when her best friend Dee – her plus one, the only person who understands the madness – falls in love, suddenly Tori’s in terrifying danger of being left behind.
When the world tells you to be one thing and turning thirty brings with it a loud ticking clock, it takes courage to walk your own path.
It’s time for Tori to practise what she’s preached, but the question is: is she brave enough?
The debut adult novel by bestselling author Holly Bourne is a blisteringly funny, honest and moving exploration of love, friendship and navigating the emotional rollercoaster of your thirties.”

I liked this book IMMEDIATELY – although within the first 2 chapters both my profession as an accountant and the football team I support had been dissed

“Why can’t he support a better football team? One that actually wins? If you’re going to chain your emotional well-being to the outcome of a football team, why pick Aston Villa?”

but I didn’t take it personally!!

The very clever observational writing – initially of wedding etiquette in recent times is cringeworthingly good.  And I am going to make a suggestion to one of my friends who is quite senior in the West Midlands police about getting copies of thumb print trees from weddings to keep as evidence for future crimes!!

Social media is an integral part of the storyline – and it’s interesting to see it played out so much.  I am guilty of being a massive oversharer – but I like to think I overshare the good and the bad – so you might get a post about an amazing holiday in Abu Dhabi – but you’ll also know all about my piles (my husband is concerned he can’t go to buy a loaf of bread in our village shop without someone asking about my arse and its problems!!)  However I know an awful lot of people who filter (metaphorically and photographically) what they post – giving a massively different view of their lives to what is actually happening. I always find it crazy when people filter the f*ck out of a picture – when half of their ‘friends’ see them on the school run and know they don’t look like that!

Anyway – enough of me ranting about two faced / filtered posters – and back to the book!

The social media ‘branding’ is vital for Tori – it’s what her book sold, and what her public expect.  She can’t post that she’s doubting whether her chap really is ‘The One’ because that would bugger up brand Tori (similarities to Brand Beckham anyone?!). However her friends are settling down and popping out kids – and she’s not sure where she and ‘rock man’ are going to – and where either of then want to be.

It’s been said it’s a Bridget Jones for millenials – and I can see that it definitely has Bridget connotations – but Tori is very different.  Interestingly it’s whether she should escape a long term relationship rather than trying to find a man that is the crux of the storyline.

It is a really quick read – and you canter through it – wanting to find out what’s going to happen to Tori next.  A couple of times I wanted to give her a shake – or maybe a cuddle – and tell her that it will all be ok whatever happens.  It definitely made me appreciate yet again doing all of the school / university / first marriage / accountancy training contract (honestly, I wasn’t like a regular accountant #injoke)  / second marriage / first couple of kids – before social media was a thing. The additional pressure that must put on ‘the youth of today’ is horrific #oldfart.

I would suggest at mid 40s I’m slightly older than target market – but I really enjoyed the book (phew, I can still be friends with the donator!).  Unsurprisingly, given the blurb, the language is quite strong, and there’s an occasional (and that’s the point, only occasional) sex scene which is a bit eurgh – but it’s a vital part of the storyline.

Now I’ve lined this up for a category in my 2018 Reading Challenge, but due to an incident with a glass of prosecco and my computer, I can’t remember what it is – but it will be added once I’m operational again.

This would make a perfect, swift, holiday read – so I’d definitely recommend downloading / buying / borrowing from the library this summer.   I will also be looking at other books by Holly Bourne – and recommending the YA stuff to my 15 year old.