14 March 2011

Book Review: RSVP by Helen Warner

Anna has never really gotten over her broken relationship with Toby, so when she receives an invitation to the wedding of Toby and wife-to-be Rachel, she is devastated and convinced her life is over. Her best friend Clare is on hand to help Anna snap out of her maudlin state of mind, and convinces Anna that it would be closure for her to attend the wedding. However, neither woman counts on their nemesis Ella de Bourg being present - after all Ella was the one who ruined everything between Toby and Anna. Anna's miserable, Rachel is nervous and unsure she's doing the right thing, Toby loves Rachel but is sure he loves someone else too, and Clare just wants someone to love. Is happiness for all of them too much to ask, or will the wedding bring out a few truths that will shatter their worlds forever?

I love reading debut novels - there is something about having no expectations or pre-conceived thoughts about an author when you pick up a book, and a debut novel is usually one that can deliver both of these things for me. This is Helen Warner's first outing into the chick lit world, and a corker of one it is too. From it's bold and beautiful turquoise cover to the riveting time-hopping story within, everything about RSVP draws you in and keeps you wanting to read until you've turned the last page and are then disappointed when it's over. That's the kind of debut I love, and that is what Helen Warner delivered here for me!

The book interestingly flits between the present day in 2010, and the back story of Anna and co, to various points in their life that are very important to the story. I was unsure at first when I began to read how easy it would be to keep track of the different stories and how it would work towards the end of the book, but my fears were unfounded and in the end, it worked out perfectly. Warner differentiates between the two time periods by writing them in two different ways which I liked. The present story is written in present tense, whereas the back-story is written in past tense, and does make it good for telling the difference, however I don't think it would have been a problem anyway, it is easy to tell the pieces of the story apart.

The characters of the book are very well written, and all have an important part within the story that develops well with the pace of the story. Anna is our main character, and the story circles around her. In the present day, Anna is heartbroken and still in love with Toby despite the years between their break-up, although it isn't necessarily clear about the circumstances of their break-up. We can see the contrast in the Anna of new and the Anna of old too, and this gives the reader an interesting perspective when you read about her. Her best friend Clare was a great character too - very straight talking and a brilliant friend to Anna, both in the present and past - everyone needs a friend like Clare in their life and I enjoyed the ups and downs of their friendship, especially when Clare's personal circumstances change a lot.

Rachel and Toby were interesting characters for me. I couldn't really warm to either - Toby because of the way he was treating the women in his life, whether it was intentional or not, and Rachel because although I feel she was meant to be portrayed as a strong woman, she didn't really come across as that and I struggled to sympathise with her. Either way, they were both great for the story, and slotted in perfectly with the other characters. They both seem very real, and I like it when characters are believable. The odd one out really is Ella de Bourg, she has a bit of a set-to with the characters in the past, but then seems to spend the rest of the book pretty much alone in her own separate story. However, I really did feel so sorry for Ella, and it seems she is a very misunderstood person, and Warner certainly writes her with a lot of sympathy.

Considering this book is entitled RSVP, there aren't really a lot of weddings in there that are relevant to the title! However, the book had me gripped as I was so keen to find out what was happening with Anna and Tom, and the latest twists and turns in the worlds of Clare and Ella! Combine these characters with a great story, some fantastic minor characters in the book that hold it altogether, it creates a very readable and interesting book. I loved the way Warner wrote this book, playing with the tenses in her writing, and flitting between the past and present, weaving a story that only becomes clearer the more you read on. It was easy to read, an absolute joy from start to finish, and felt very realistic - not everything was rosy with all the couples all of the time, and I can definitely recommend Warner's debut novel, it was fantastic.

Rating: 5/5


  1. I loved this book!! I bought it after reading your review and read it within 2 days, am definately looking forward to reading more from this author

  2. This is not a very good book. The writing is incredibly poor and the characters are very one-dimensional. You will enjoy this book if you have no expectations, otherwise you will be extremely disappointed.
    I'd wait until it appears on the charity shop shelves in 6 months' time if I had the choice about whether or not to buy it again.
    Hopefully this author will do better with her subsequent novels (if she gets a deal after this load of drivel!)