28 March 2011

Book Review: A Surprise Party by Sue Welfare

Liz and Suzie really wanted their parents 40th Wedding Anniversary Party to be something that Rose and Jack would never forget, and boy did it turn out to be that. Liz, TV Golden's Girl after hosting hit show "Starmaker" has left all the hard graft to her sister, much to Suzie's resentment. She's fine with the fact she's stumped up the money and has therefore done her bit but Suzie is fed up of doing everything herself, with the help of husband Sam. Their daughters Megan and Hannah seem to be going a bit awry as well, so that just adds to Suzie's worry. As the party kicks off, huge secrets are suddenly revealed which threaten to thrown Liz and Suzie's very existence into question, and makes them worry about the foundation of everything they have ever known. Will the family ever be able to get past this, and was the surprise party the worst idea ever... will there be a family left to speak of as the champagne stops flowing?

I have to be honest and say that initially I was not attracted to picking up this book at all, and it would happily have sat on my shelf had I not picked it up and flicked through the first few pages and really enjoyed them. The cover is a tad bland for my liking and I think it certainly makes the book like it is aimed at an older audience than me (early 20's) which is a shame because the story within can appeal across the generations but perhaps might be held up by its cover. I have never read anything by Sue Welfare, who also writes under the names Kate Lawson and Gemma Fox, so I was curious to see what her book would be like and hoped for the best!

Luckily for me, the story inside was extremely readable and enjoyable overall. I quickly realised that the  book wouldn't be moving outside of the party time frame, and initially that concerned me because I thought it might become a bit too stagnant and dull, but that certainly wasn't the case. Welfare begins by introducing us to the main characters, which are the sisters Liz and Suzie. They are polar opposites, with Liz loving the high life of being a TV presenter and using it as an excuse not to get her hands dirty whereas sister Suzie is a happily married mum of two who runs a small vegetable shop and is successful in her own right. The sisters disagree on a lot at the party but both want to make it a time to remember for their parents. Liz is quite dislikeable, although there is a desperate wanting to be liked within her, and wanting to be loved more than anything, and ironically she's jealous of Suzie for that. Suzie on the other hand is a lovely woman, juggling her responsibilities as a mother, wife and worker as well, and is certainly a character a lot of women will be able to relate to.

Immediately, Welfare deals us a huge secret that I certainly didn't see coming in a million years,  neither will other readers which is what makes it particularly good. I liked that she was able to keep us in the dark, and the surprising revelations do continue throughout the book which is even better. I was worried that this book  might be a tad predictable and while in some instances it was (as with most books in the genre), it certainly had its very surprising moments which I was glad of.Welfare also chooses to represent the age ranges across this book, with the sisters Liz and Suzie, Suzie's daughters Hannah and Megan, and then the recipients of the party Jack and Rose, and Rose's sister Fleur. They also have their own stories within the book, and I enjoyed their stories as much as the younger ones, despite the fact I couldn't so much relate to them. Fleur in particular was great, and I loved her attitude and persona through the book.

One area within the book I really enjoying reading about was the social life of Suzie's eldest daughter Hannah. She has got herself involved with a few young teenagers who aren't a good influence on her, and just to spite her mother she runs off with them and a stolen bottle of booze. I enjoyed how Welfare tackled the issue of teen drinking and the consequences, and also indirectly peer pressure and bullying which certainly added a new vein to the book. I felt that Welfare really connected well with these young characters, and did them justice in her representation of them throughout the story. She also represents Megan, the younger sibling, well too, stuck between wanting to be cool for Hannah and afraid of disobeying her parents, something I'm sure we all remember!

Overall, I thought this was a very enjoyable read and one I would be happy to recommend without a doubt. Despite my initial misgivings about the cover, I'm pleased to say that my fears were completely unfounded and the story within was very entertaining and kept me hooked right up until the last page. There is a lot going on with many different characters and storylines all inter-connected by this surprise party, but it wasn't hard at all to follow and was quite exciting as you keep wondering what secrets will be revealed next! Welfare's writing style is easy to get into and a pleasure to read, and the third person narrative worked perfectly for this book. I enjoyed every page and will certainly be picking up more of Welfare's book in the future. Recommended!

Rating: 4/5


  1. This sounds really good! I love the inclusion of the younger daughter as well, that's always a nice added bonus, especially for readers of YA books.

    Lovely review! Now I need to see if I can pick it up in the US! ;o)

  2. Hi - thank you for such a lovely review. I'm so pleased you enjoyed the book xx

    Hi Danielle, you can get Surprise Party from the Book Depository which ships books all over the world P&P free
    or you can download the kindle version from Amazon.com.

    hope this helps xx

    with all best wishes,
    Sue xx

  3. I finished the book last night and very much enjoyed it. I also thought the storyline about the teenagers was done quite well.