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.