27 April 2009

Book Review: What My Best Friend Did by Lucy Dawson

Lucy Dawson
"When Alice meets Gretchen for the first time, it feels a bit like falling in love. Life's got a bit boringly grown-up of late: weekends at weddings and baby-showers, celebrating friends' transitions to a life she isn't quite up for yet, and, at home, a sweet-and-stable boyfriend she suspects she's outgrown. Gretchen Bartholomew, with her air of impulsiveness and intuitive style, is that rarest of things: a proper, new friend who knows how to have fun. Even the added complication of Gretchen's gorgeous brother, Bailey, might actually be just what Alice needs. Before she knows what's hit her, Alice's brilliant new best friend is turning her world upside down. But Gretchen has a dark secret, which - like a time bomb ticking in her hand - won't stay hidden for ever. The explosion may teach them both more than they ever wanted to know about how female friendships can go wrong."

Rating: 5/5

I really was not at all impressed with Dawson's first novel "His Other Lover" - she had written weak characters, an unsatisfying story and a dreadful ending so I was hoping that things could only get better with her second offering. The plot was again a look at the darker side of relationships, this time a platonic friendship between 2 women who meet on a whim and form a friendship without really knowing each other. It had similarities with Dawson's first book in that there is a bit of a mystery running throughout, but luckily for me and Dawson's other readers, the writing, characters and story are far better and makes a really good read!

The book starts off with a pretty explosive start and left me totally hooked, eager to find out what had caused the circumstances that the book began in. I think this was a good device by Dawson, leaving us desperate to read more and I was also intrigued to read the background to the characters as well, especially Alice who was quite interesting. I really liked the lead character of Alice who started off as quite a normal woman happy with her boyfriend and business, but is changed a lot by her new friend. As the reader, we can see how Alice changes and the effect it has on all her relationships but she herself can't see it which makes the dynamic of the book interesting. I disliked Gretchen from the off, I can't put my finger on why but she just seemed very unlikeable and this worked well with likeable Alice, making the readers emotion stir up enough to keep reading.

There were really only 2 male characters in the book, Alice's boyfriend Tom who wasn't actually present in a lot of the book, and Gretchen's brother Bailey, a bit more a presence than Tom and another likeable person. Dawson has definitely improved with her character writing because all the characters were believable as people and helped the story develop in a good way which worked well in the scope of the story. The issues covered by the author regarding the characters are well tackled, and the relationships chop and change well with these problems, adapting as necessary and this was really well done by Dawson. Gretchen and Bailey's relationship is particular was quite touching and written with a real sensitivity of the situation and for this, Dawson deserves real praise.

The thing I enjoyed most about the book was the way the author has approached the telling of this story. It starts off with a shocking start, and this is slowly revealed as the book progresses through alternate chapter flashbacks and eventually leading up to the present. When Dawson took me back to the past, I was sometimes wishing she would hurry up a little and get to the crux of the issue so I could find out why it was all happening as it seemed to drag in parts but it soon picked up pace again when we sent back to the present time and Alice's dilemmas were being uncovered. Dawson really did keep me guessing, and there were quite a few twists and turns along the way that surprised me and I liked that Dawson was able to do that. I thought it was going to be predictable, but it certainly wasn't, and I really was guessing right up until the last few pages.

If you like "chick-lit" with a bit of a difference, then 'What My Best Friend Did' just might be the book for you. It is a vast improvement on the author's debut novel and I thoroughly enjoyed the read. For a novel, it is quite short at just under 300 pages but it is a packed book full of twists, turns and a really good story. I didn't want to put it down of an evening because I was desperate to find out what was going to happen next, and I think all credit is due to the author for this. I am pleased Lucy Dawson made such an improvement in this book, and it really is such a good read I would most definitely recommend it to anyone who is a fan of the genre, you'll be gripped!

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