4 April 2011
Book Review: Chances by Freya North
I really used to enjoy reading Freya North's novel, but for some reason I couldn't at all get into her last few which I felt was a real shame. When I was sent a copy of Chances, I did at first dismiss it because of my track record with her last few books but luckily something made me pick it up to give it another chance, and I am really glad I did. The cover is gorgeous, its shades of pink and gold look like a real summery read, and actually suits the book quite well now I have finished it. The cover actually makes the book look quite whimsical whereas I found much deeper than I expected, and that is what was enjoyable about this book overall.
I have to admit I did find the book a little slow to start. The writing style is quite different to other authors and it took me a little whole to settle into it, which is perhaps what hindered my initial enjoyment of it. I decided to persevere, and I did start to find it easier going. The book is heavily narrative, interspersed occasionally with speech between the various characters but it does rely a lot of descriptive narrative which can get a little hard going sometimes. North does detail surroundings, places, feelings very well and a lot of the time it works perfectly and is a pleasure to read but there are a few occurences when it was just a tad too much for me and I had to put the book down for a while just for a break, but soon wanted to pick it back up again.
The characters were well written, and all likeable, which is quite vital in a novel with a plot like this. Our leading lady Vita is fantastic. I have to admit I thought she was a more elderly character at first, not one in her early thirties so that was a bit of a surprise, but I really warmed to her and her situation, feeling sympathetic in all the right places. From North's writing, you can feel Vita's sorrow at the loss of her relationship with Tim, her dread of being alone but I was hopeful she would see through him as we, the reader, do straight away. Oliver is the other main character, and I loved him straight away, he's certainly the hero of the book. He is mourning the loss of his relationship with wife DeeDee but is unsure he wants to move on, and cares so much for his son Jonty he doesn't want to damage the father-son bond they have. You can see immediately how the book is going to end when these characters meet but somehow it doesn't matter. Yes, it loses some of the initial tension created by not knowing where Vita is going to end up but I wanted a happy ending for these two so much.
North has a creative use of present and past tense in the book, something which took me a while to get to grabs with. Often, it changed paragraph on paragraph, switching somewhat seamlessly but I did notice it happen a few times in the same paragraph which did get a little confusing and I had to reread a few lines to get them straight in my own head, but it isn't that big a deal for me. The joy in this book was the growth of Vita and Oliver, seeing them develop emotionally and mentally, and breaking free of the burden that a previous relationship can leave you with. Yes, it has its moment of being sad, but I found it mainly uplifting and motivational, showing how taking a chance can change your how life for the better, and that a positive outlook can work wonders.
I really did enjoy this book, and it certainly has encouraged me into wanting to pick up more of North's books again in the future, despite my little stumble before now. With lovely characters that you not only warm to but begin to want happiness for, and a rather idyllic setting, Chances is a novel that will lift your heart and open your mind on a warm spring day. It takes what I considered a boring topic, tree surgery, into something quite fascinating and North weaves the facts amongst the story with ease, the reader taking them in subconsciously because it seems important to listen to what Oliver is teaching us about trees! It's a well written and very enjoyable book, with a wonderful message at the heart of it. Recommended!