29 September 2011
Book Review: Lessons in Laughing Out Loud by Rowan Coleman
I haven't actually read any of Rowan Coleman's books for a few years, although I honestly don't know why. I really enjoyed her 'Accidental Mother' series from a few years back, and when I was sent a copy of her latest book, Lessons in Laughing Out Loud, I was intrigued to find out more about the story as there was something that sounded interesting about it, not least the title for a start. The cover is a bit bizarre, certainly not the norm in the chick lit world but perhaps that was the idea - to stand out from the crowd a bit? Once I had finished the book, I have to say its one of the most moving and beautifully written novels I read in a long time - and its the first to actually have me crying tears for a very long time. Come the end I was sobbing for Willow, and it takes a great talent to move me to tears, let me tell you! Here is why you MUST read this book.
Although the blurb of this book initially talks about Willow and Holly being twin sisters, Holly barely features in the novel. This book is all about Willow, but I actually liked that it focussed more on one person as it helped us to really get into Willow's story and allowed it to develop without having to deviate too far from it. Willow is a fantastic character for so many reasons. She is great at her job as a PA, she is a great sister to Holly, a fab aunty to her nieces who lovingly call her Aunty Pillow, and best of all she's a wonderful step-mother to Chloe, the daughter of her ex-husband Sam. Something happened in Willow's past that holds her back, something we aren't made aware of for a good while into the book, but it is something quite shocking. I don't want to say what it is or any more about it actually as you need to read about it for it to work, but I felt Coleman handled the issue superbly, and while a few scenes made for startling reading, it was well covered and handled.
Perhaps the best thing about this book for me was the relationship between Willow and Chloe. Chloe has found herself in a spot of bother, and being only 16, she decides to run away from her dad to the only person she is sure will help her - her ex-step-mother. I felt Coleman really wrote this relationship really realistically, both the good and bad sides of it and it was wonderful to watch it grow and happen as the book progressed. It was also nice to see a fairly amicable relationship between Sam and Willow too, although again we don't know why the pair split up until a long way into the book. The storyline involving Chloe is another quite controversial one but again I felt Coleman had done the research and had the compassion in her writing to handle it well enough. The male characters were all well written too, from her ex-husband Sam, to the typical 'alpha male' character Daniel who I rather liked by the way, to his bumbling friend James who seemed a bit of a strange inclusion, but all the way through, you're never quite sure which, if any, of these Willow will want to end up with.
The refreshing thing about this book is that it isn't all about men, or a woman looking for the perfect man. Instead, its more about facing up to your demons, working on the broken relationships in your life with everyone important to you and moving forward, not looking back. It's positive, it's life-affirming and was just a joy to read. I actually found myself staying up til almost 2am to finish this because I had to find out what happened to Willow and how things would end for her and Holly. I can only imagine the emotions Coleman went through writing this as it really comes out in her writing, and as I say moved me to tears. There was something about this book that consumed me, and still months after reading it, it's still with me. I have to confess I wasn't mad about the whole 'magical shoes' idea, that was a bit far-fetched for me and I'm not madly into magical storylines but again, it felt okay within the book and wasn't too heavy. There is some humour to lighten up the more serious and hard-going storylines, but this is just a superb read that I highly recommend to ANYONE. I loved every page, and it's definitely up there as one of my favourite reads this year. Read it!