12 March 2012
Book Review: IOU by Helen Warner
I read and enjoyed Helen Warner's debut novel RSVP last year, and was lucky enough to receive a review copy of this book too. Clearly Warner really likes her acronyms because this book is named after one as well, this time IOU. I really like the cover, anything purple makes me happy so this one was pretty good in my eyes! I didn't realise before I started it that the main characters in this book are family - a mother and her two daughters, and when I found that out, I thought the book would be even better as I always like it when there is a family connection in a book. I looked forward to tucking in to this one, and when I did, I found it to be a really good and readable book that I thoroughly enjoyed.
The book centres around 3 female characters - mother Jennifer and her 2 daughters Kate and Amy, who all live very different lives and aren't as close as they would perhaps like to think that they are. Jennifer is still grieving after the loss of her husband Michael, but is wondering if it is time to start seeing a face from her past once more, however feels afraid of upsetting her daughters. Kate, a busy heart nurse, is feeling like something is lacking in her marriage to Miles, and when a stranger suddenly comes into her life, she wonders if it worth risking her stable life for a bit of fun and happiness. Finally, there's her sister Amy, the one with the privileged life thanks to her marriage to wealthy Ben. But when Ben loses his job, and consequently their money, income and house goes down the drain as well. Amy has to learn to cope without the money she's always had, and the big adjustments this has on her family life too.
As you can see, there is quite a bit going on in this book, but I enjoyed that fact that it was busy. It was easy to tell the difference between the three stories, as it tended to be that every chapter followed a different woman, although as they are family their stories were woven together somewhat, and all the characters frequently appeared all over the book. One thing I really liked were the flashbacks throughout Jennifer's chapter to her courtship and early life with husband Michael, it really set the scene for her grief in the present day, and confusion over what to do with the new man in her life, especially being who he is. I felt that Warner handled this story especially well, and I really loved Jennifer straight away, she was just a woman who wanted to please everyone and keep everyone happy, something I know a lot of mums do for their families and I was willing her to put herself first! At first, I found her daughter Amy really unlikeable, but as her story unfolded, I started to warm to her and you could sort of understand why she was how she was, she had no reason to be otherwise.
Finally, there was Kate, probably the most level-headed of the three women, and the one her mother and sister confide in as well. I enjoyed reading Kate's story, and felt that the family as a whole worked really well, including the more minor male characters who were really well written too. Quite a lot of important issues were covered in the book, from the financial crisis, to infidelity, grief and health problems too. There was a surprising turn at the end of the book, I won't spoil it by revealing anything about it as I think it's important to read it in the context of the book, but I have to say it was so moving and emotional to read, I did shed a tear by the time it was all done, and I felt Warner covered it so well. I didn't expect it to happen, but it certainly made for some interesting revelations and was a sudden change in direction for the book.
Overall, this was a really positive book about women coming through in the face of adversity, via the three very different stories of Amy, Kate and Jennifer. All of them have different obstacles to overcome, whether it's financial, personal or otherwise, but all have to find an inner strength to get past them, and I enjoyed reading their journeys in this book. I also liked that they were family too because it felt important that all the stories were linked, and added an extra depth to the book as well. I found the writing was really easy to read, and I was absorbed into the book really quickly, and read it pretty fast as it was something I didn't want to stop reading. Although I loved her debut book RSVP, I feel like this one is an improvement on that and that Warner is in her stride writing-wise here, and I felt much more for these characters too. It was a really great book to sit down with and devour, and I'd highly recommend it, it's a fantastic read, with some great characters that you really can care about.
You can pre-order IOU as a hardback and an eBook now.