Faced with this news, Gracie Davies is at an all-time low. But with the support of some new Wimbledon friends, an unorthodox therapist, her hippy-chick sister Naomi and Czech call-girl Maya, she sets up The SW19 Club and begins her rocky journey to inner peace and happiness. Add in a passionate fling with handsome landscaper Ed, a fairytale encounter with a Hollywood filmstar and the persistence of her adulterous ex, life is anything but predictable…"
Nicola May is back this summer with her brand new book, The SW19 Club, and I was really excited when she asked me to review it for my blog. The idea of the book is tinged with a bit of sadness - Nicola herself recently went through something which has meant she is unable to have her own children, and it inspired her to write the story of Gracie, the character going through the exact same thing as Nicola is. You really feel the rawness and the fact Nicola has experienced this in her writing, it is incredibly emotional and hard to read at times, but an ultimately uplifting story.
Gracie is devastated when she finally becomes pregnant with twins, and tragically loses them, and ultimately her ability to have any future children either. She is completely broken, and doesn't know where to turn, to the point where it is starting to affect her relationship and job. Eventually, Gracie realises she has to get on her with her life, and ends up making some new friends in Wimbledon when she's at the park. Her sister is a big help in getting her life back on track too, and soon Gracie is feeling like life could perhaps be on the up. As Gracie gets her own new club, The SW19 Club, up and running, she starts to realise she can have fun in the life she has been given after all...
The initial part of this book is very sad, and at times heart-breaking to read. Gracie's emotion comes through the page so easily, and I found myself getting tearful at several points. You can tell Nicola May has drawn on her own experiences with this book, and this comes across so well in the book. There will be people who have gone through what Nicola and Gracie have gone through, and will be able to relate to their story, but for those who haven't, it is a very tough insight into their world. Being able to have children is something you take for granted, so I can't imagine how hard it would to have that opportunity taken away from you for good, it is a truly awful thing for someone to have to experience.
That said, while the tone of the book starts off sad, it does pick up as it progresses, and I loved seeing Gracie break out of her misery and try to move on with her life. Her sister Naomi is brilliant at helping her get her life back together, and her nephew is so sweet too, you can see why Gracie loves spending time with him. The relationship between the two women is extremely close, and I felt glad that Gracie had someone so close to her when she really needed them. Gracie's partner Lewis, well, I struggled to fathom him out really. Yes, he lost babies too but he seems to think Gracie should be over it a lot quicker than she is, and struggles to understand why she wants to cling on to her baby weight, and the cots set up in the nursery. He felt a little cold to me, and I wanted to give him a good shake. Soon, things deteriorate for the pair and I was hopeful that would be the end of him! There's also another of Gracie's new friends, Czech call girl Maya whose story is shocking, gripping and twinged with a bit of sadness, and provided a little relief from Gracie's tale, but I loved it just the same!
The SW19 club, which is of course the title of the book, but doesn't actually appear a huge amount in the book. Gracie sets it up in Wimbledon park with her new found friend, and runs it as a support group for women who have gone through miscarriage. It's a great idea - the topic of miscarriage doesn't seem to be spoken about enough, and I can imagine it would be nice having people to talk to who have been through the same as you if you ever needed somewhere to turn. Again, Nicola really gets the tone of this part of the book right, some of the stories are really sad, but are necessary to understand where Gracie is coming from, and what she's had to get through to be where she is today.
This is definitely one of my favourite books by Nicola May - not the funny, laugh-out-loud books of the past I have read from her, but instead something touching, powerful and emotional - a story that so many women (and men) will be able to relate to, but with a glimmer of hope too. Gracie's hitting rock bottom was hard to read, I just wanted to scoop her up and hug her and cry with her, but it was inspiring the way she was able to be strong and get herself back on track in the end, both personally and professionally. The cast of the book are brilliant, all likeable people that you care about as you're reading. This story will make you cry, smile and laugh along with it, and I know it's a story that will stay with me. A beautiful read, just be aware some readers may find this perhaps a bit too close for home. Wonderful.