22 October 2009

Book Review: Second Time Lucky by Sophie King

Once Bridgewater House was the stately home of Lord Pearmain. Now, however, the house has been divided into separate residences for financial purposes. The Lord is forced to live in one of the humble apartments alongside his newly acquired housemates, among them a newly-divorced mother-of-three, a legendary screen goddess of the 1940s, and an American PhD student. Over an eventful year their children, a burglar, a friendly dog, a very capable cleaner, and at least one ghost will transform all of the residents' lives.

The story follows the lives of the residents of Bridgewater House, an old mansion which has been converted by developers into smaller individual flats.It begins by telling us the story of Louise, who is moving out of her family home with her 3 children Nick, Tim and Justine after her marriage has fallen apart.She is moving into Bridgewater House, and her children are not necessarily pleased about it.We quickly meet another resident of Bridgewater House, Mollie DeMay, a famous elderly actress who has been recently widowed. She still sees her husband in her head, much to the annoyance and worry of her son Nigel. Marcie, another home-owner, is a young American woman desperately trying to have a baby with her English husband David. She does not get on with her step-children but her husband does not see the dire treatment she gets from them, leaving you to feel somewhat sympathetic to poor Marcie.

Sally is the cleaner for most of the residents of Bridgewater House. We do not know much about her when she is brought into the novel but her history develops more as the story goes on, so I shall not spoil that for you. Roddy, or Lord Pearmain, is the final resident we follow through the book. He has just finished a stint at an alcohol rehab clinic, and is desperately trying to convince his ex-wife Amanda to let him see their children. Bridgewater House used to belong to his family, so downsizing to one apartment within the house is a bit of a shock for Roddy.

The most enjoyable thing about this book was the characters, most definitely. They were all either really likeable, or totally horrid so you didn't mind not feeling sorry for them, or just loathing them! Sophie King has obviously thought a lot about the characters, each has a great history, and I like how they are not all thrown together at once, the relationships between the characters build nice and slowly, allowing you to follow the pace nicely and build a picture of the characters and surroundings properly in your head.

For me, I think Mollie was my favourite character. She is slightly eccentric, yet believes her love for her husband will conquer anything, even death. When she is dealt a devastating truth towards the end of the novel, King deals with it delicately and with a lot of grace, fitting with totally in with the character, and it left me feeling really quite sorry for poor old Mollie.

The lead character of the book, Louise, is having a hard time in her life, and the character to me seems very realistic and believable. The teenage children are written with a real knowledge of how a teenager behaves, particularly after a bad break up of their parents, and it was hard to read at points, as Louise's children were being, at points, vile to their poor mother. Louise was a very empathetic character, and the battle for her heart at the end of the book gives you a little bit of hope that the end of a relationship isn't the end of your love life altogether!

Almost all of the novel takes place at Bridgewater House, and Sophie King paints a wonderful picture of the house and the surroundings, especially the lake at the house. It really is a thoroughly enjoyable read, and I really couldn't put it down. I was desperate to find out what was happening to the individual stories, and the group stories, which are cleverly intertwined and mix together perfectly.

Sophie King, a pseudonym for journalist Jane Bidder, is a talented writer, and the way she writes the characters and their relationship is fantastic. All the characters are believable, and importantly, likeable. She even makes the bad guys in the book out to be okay in the end, and you don't feel all that bad towards them, despite some of the things that they have done. I really cannot tell you how much I loved this book, except that I read it in 3 days, and with a mad toddler, that is no mean feat! Women's fiction at it's best! Simply superb.

Rating: 5/5

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