9 December 2009

Book Review: The Wish List by Martina Reilly

Allie and Tony have had their ups and downs throughout their marriage, but nothing prepares Allie for the awful shock she gets when she answers the door one day. Suddenly, the future, the home and the life she shares with Tony and their two sons Mark and Owen are uncertain and Allie doesn't know what to do.

Allie's eldest son Mark is inquisitive and wants to know what is going on with his dad, but isn't convinced by their fibs. He befriends the man who lives next door, Jeremy, and is pleasantly surprised by his secret - Jeremy is really Santa Claus! Mark confides his every worry in him but Jeremy is worried about to handle this messed up little boy. Is Allie going to realise that Mark is more troubled than she thinks, or is the worry about Tony all consuming, and will it destroy their family for good?

I've been a fan of Martina Reilly's book ever since I read her older work under the name of Tina Reilly quite a few years ago now. I also passed on several books of hers to my mum who also loves Reilly's work now, so she is definitely an author who appeals across the age ranges. The wish list is her fourth novel under her more serious moniker of Martina Reilly, and is out in large paperback, with the UK smaller paperback due out in January 2010. Reilly always deals with serious themes and issues in her books, and The Wish List is no different, covering topics from drug abuse to the effect this has on young children.

The book begins with Allie being unaware of her husband Tony's drug addiction, but Reilly chooses not to go into too much detail about the discovery and the immediate efect this has on her family. Instead, we skip forward to Allie and her 2 children moving house because they can't keep their old house anymore, and we see the knock on effect Tony's addiction has had not only on Allie, but on their sons' too. Allie is the main character in the book, and the one we follow throughout the journey of Tony's recovery and the family trying to come back together agan despite everything. She's a character I warmed to straight away - as a mother I could empathise with her horror and anger at her husband lying to the family like this, and Reilly portrays Allie's range of emotions so well you almost feel them with her.

Even though Tony is the character you are supposed to dislike, I did feel slightly sorry for him. Yes, he is a drug addict but Reilly brings across his sense of hopelessness and weakness incredibly well, and I did sympathise with him a bit even though I certainly didn't expect to. One of the characters who I felt was best written was that of Allie and Tony's young son Mark. Reilly manages to get into the head of a young boy perfectly, and it was quite hard at times to read how much the atmosphere between his parents was affecting Mark, and its definitely a wake up call for parents when you read this sort of thing. The neighbour Jeremy was also quite a funny character at times but I just couldn't warm to him and I felt his background story dragged out a bit and I did lose interest in it for a while.

The book themes are quite dark, and this makes it quite difficult reading at times. It's hard to read about Tony's addiction, and while Reilly doesn't go into graphic detail about his drug use, there is still the effects on him, the emotions he goes through, and the counselling sessions that are mentioned are also quite difficult because it really does feel at times like you are a fly on the wall and it is quite hard to read. I found that the book was very dark, there wasn't a lot of happiness at all and therefore I did feel slightly bogged down in it and sort of dreaded picking it up because I knew nothing funny or happy was going to happen. However though, I was intrigued to see how it would all end, and Reilly does send you down quite a few paths before coming to a conclusion which I enjoyed.

While I don't think that this is Martina Reilly's best book, it's still a captivating read and once more she proves that she is not afraid to tackle hard hitting subjects in commercial fiction, and does this very well indeed. The research that goes into a book like this doesn't really bear thinking about, but you can tell Reilly has done this well because you can believe every word is written, and you feel like you are in the middle of Tony and Allie's angst and despair at times. The characters are well written and sympathetic despite their circumstances, and the pace of the book was just right. There are a couple of upsetting scenes in there that surprised me but they do set the scene and sit well in the book so I can't complain about those. A mature read, and very enjoyable. I'd recommend it.

Rating: 4/5

1 comment:

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