Book Review: Darling by India Knight

A razor-sharp, laugh-out-loud novel that re-imagines the cast of Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love.
Marooned in a sprawling farmhouse in Norfolk, teenage Linda Radlett feels herself destined for greater things. She longs for love, but how will she ever find it? She can’t even get a signal on her mobile phone. Linda’s strict, former rock star father terrifies any potential suitors away, while her bohemian mother, wafting around in silver jewellery, answers Linda’s urgent questions about love with upsettingly vivid allusions to animal husbandry.
Eventually Linda does find her way out from the bosom of her deeply eccentric extended family, and she escapes to London. She knows she doesn’t want to marry ‘a man who looks like a pudding’, as her good and dull sister Louisa has done, and marries the flashy, handsome son of a UKIP peer instead. 
But this is only the beginning of Linda’s pursuit of love, a journey that will be wilder, more surprising and more complicated than she could ever have imagined.”

OK – so I need to hold my hands up first and say I’ve never read ‘The Pursuit of Love’ by Nancy Mitford – so whilst this is a retelling – it was a brand new story / set of characters for me – but as a fan of India Knight’s writing I requested an ARC from NetGalley.

The book is narrated by Frances, a cousin of the Radlett siblings, who has been sent to live with her Aunt Sadie and Uncle Matthew by her flaky mother. Matthew is a retired rockstar, Sadie is his earth mother wife – and they home school their children – and Franny.

The characters are all brilliantly written – with Uncle Matthew my favourite, with some amazing one liners – and lists of things he hates. I’ve just re read one of the lists now – and have laughed out loud as I type (in a coffee shop in Worcester whilst waiting to collect my kids from private school, and ironically one of the things on this list is ‘overconfident public schoolgirls with loud voices’) Another favourite is ‘wellness, (why should I take advice from posh girls with eating disorders?’ But I will stop listing them now, as you really need to read them in their wonderfully written rant mode to fully appreciate them!!

The book starts with the kids growing up in rural Norfolk – with the occasional trip to Cromer for the children’s excitement. Their homeschooling means they know incredibly random things – but not your standard three Rs. They also have their own codes, words, abbreviations – which as a mother of 4, and with our own family ‘things’, I totally understand.

The book then follows all of the family – but primarily Linda on her pursuit of love, taking in London and Paris as well as Norfolk. Each of the locations is written about and described really well and you feel like you’re there.

There is an eclectic supporting cast who are excellently described – Davey and his gut health being very informative!

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the book – it was clever, witty, funny and an escapist read. I just can’t comment on how it is as a retelling!

It’s out later in October 2022. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my ARC.

Book Review: In Your Prime by India Knight


In Your Prime

First of all I should ‘fess up to a bit of a girl crush on Ms Knight!  My first foray into her writing was ‘Neris and India’s Idiot Proof Diet‘ many years ago.  The accompanying website, Pig 2 Twig (which is what they wanted to call the book but Penguin wouldn’t allow it!) introduced me to lots of lovely people who have become life long friends, and for this I will be eternally grateful.  In fact, I actually feature on the ‘before and after‘ page of the website – and right at this moment, would take the ‘before’!!

I’ve read India’s other non-fiction and fiction offerings – all of which I’ve really enjoyed – so I asked for this book ‘In Your Prime’ for my 42nd birthday last month.

I think I am slightly, but only slightly, younger than the target reader – but hey, you can always be prepared!  Here’s what the Amazon blurb says:

“‘I love India and her no-nonsense, honest and utterly hilarious guide to navigating the post-45 years’ Marian Keyes, Mail on Sunday

‘A route map for the midlifer woman. Knight tackles every issue – beauty, menopause, laser eye surgery . . . she is not held back by the fear of laying down the law’ The Times

Happy, confident, in control, ready to do and enjoy everything that comes your way – you’re definitely In Your Prime. But too many of us allow mid-life’s little nuisances to dictate how and who we are. So let India Knight tell you how to deal with the obstacles while living life to the full.

Whether it is coping with ageing parents, divorce, dating, teenagers, wavering libidos or your saggy bits, India dispenses perfect tips. She’ll instruct you how to drink, dress and party gracefully (or disgracefully), but above all she’ll show that happiness is the one thing you deserve.

This is the book that will tell you how to live the rest of your life.”

Yet again, I wasn’t disappointed.  India’s style – like her Sunday Times column – is quite opinionated, a bit bossy and occasionally sweary (which is very much like me, except the swearing is more frequent in my house!) and I can imagine it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea – but it is most definitely mine.

Some of it (menopause, parents with dementia) I hope I am still some way from, but it was really useful to see some suggestions of things to consider beforehand.

Some of it was relevant already – supporting friends who are ill by cooking meals and leaving them with reheating instructions is something I’d already done (in fact, 2 of the recipes out of the ‘Neris and India’s Idiot Proof Cookbook‘ are my ‘go to’s on such occasions – the Spanish chicken and one of the sausage casseroles have been devoured by children in the village who would never eat the contents if their own parents had cooked it) – but highlighting the fact that people don’t want to have to make decisions when they’re ill – so asking ‘how can I help?’ or ‘what can I cook you?’ is actually putting additional pressure on the already suffering friend – so making other decisions for them, like what to cook, or announcing you will do the ironing rather than asking what you can do – is actually way more helpful.  I know it’s stating the obvious – but is definitely something I will think about more in future.

The chapter about teenage kids was a bit scary – as we’re fast approaching that stage – but forewarned is forearmed and all that.

I am also renowned for always being super busy and super efficient – and the section about not needing to ‘have it all’ all of the time and taking time out and appreciating the little things really resonated.  As did the suggestion of paying for help if you can afford it.  We’ve recently employed our own Mrs Patmore (co-incidentally the third author – although unmentioned in the title – of the aforementioned cookbook) and it’s changed our lives!!  Partly from the fact that the fridge is always filled with low carb delights, and that the children are trying lots of new things (with varying degrees of success – 4 kids all liking the same thing is so rare) but also because it frees up my husband’s and my time to spend with the kids doing reading, homework, playing games etc – and means we often all sit down to eat together as a family – which we rarely did on weekdays before.  I also think stress levels are just generally lower without the daily ‘what on earth am I going to cook?’ ponderances.  Paying for this help has definitely been a worthwhile investment.

And having been squeamish about it for years – I might just have to look into laser eye surgery……………..

In summary I’d definitely recommend this for all India Knight fans of a ‘certain’ age who are in their prime and want to be older, wiser and happier!