22 June 2011

Book Review: Laura's Handmade Life by Amanda Addison

Laura Lovegrove is leaving behind her seamless life in London. Architect husband Adi has been relocated to rural Norfolk, a far cry from ultra-urban Ealing. Though Laura knew village life would be different, she didn't foresee a pokey cottage, nosey neighbours, errant poodles, and even an ex turning up. Chris had been her big love at art college and seeing him again is utterly confusing. Is she really so different from the impulsive student who once trawled charity shops for vintage treasures? When a fire all but destroys Laura's collection of vintage clothes, she's heartbroken. And seriously lacking in outfits. But, salvaging what she can, Laura makes do and mends - sewing purses, bags, even dog leads (which should solve the poodle problem). Soon, she's inundated with orders. But Adi is becoming more and more distant; it's like there's something he's not telling her. Can Laura make a stitch in time and pull her family back together again? 

This book is author Amanda Addison's debut, and one I have been looking forward to for a while. The quirky patchwork style cover has a good look about it, and I liked the idea of a book  based around sewing and homemade craft. I was a little worried when Leah posted on Goodreads that she'd had to give up on it after 100 pages, but decided to persevere and form my own opinion about it. Unfortunately, by the end I was pleased that it was all over and was really disappointed with what I had read given my high expectations of the book. It was a combination of factors which caused me not to enjoy this read, from the extremely annoying and aggravating main character to the poor narrative and bad cohesion throughout. I also can't help but wonder if this was written just to suit the "craft" market and ethos that is out there at the moment.

Our lead character is Laura, and someone I really disliked from the beginning. You easily forget she is a thirty-something mother of two and a wife but she acts like a petulant teenager and there really isn't anything likeable about her at all. She whinges constantly about her move from London to the country, finding fault in everything but not balancing that with a positive at all. It comes across as very childish and makes Laura someone you don't want to hear from, which is a major problem when she is narrating the book, and it's written in the first person. Saying that, her husband Adi wasn't much better. He's a very weak male character, doesn't add a great deal to the book and I didn't really care about his relationship with Laura either. It didn't set me up for a very enjoyable read, having to plough through text about characters I didn't care about.

One thing I have to mention is that this author seems to have an obsession with yurts! Seriously, I had no idea what a yurt was until I googled it after reading it literally a hundred times in this book (after which I still couldn't visualise what a flippin' yurt was!), and I don't know why this has to be hammered home so much. In fact, the mention of the yurt grated on my nerves so much, I wanted to skip past any scenes involving it, it was just over the top and really annoying. Laura has this beautiful cottage to live in and all she does is moan about the yurt, you just want to tell her to shut up about the yurt and talk about something else! Addison chooses to make yurts Adi's obsession too, so it is double overkill!

Another thing that irked me was the start of each chapter. There is a small description of a stitch of some sort, but instead of putting a picture of that stitch so readers can become intersted and perhaps attempt it themselves, there is a generic picture of a needle and thread which is totally unrelated to the stitch. It's a shame the extra effort couldn't have been made to tie this up (excuse the pun!!) neatly with a picture that corresponds with the text. A lot of Laura's technical work was well described but just looked hideous in my head - I couldn't imagine myself wanting anything she made and I found it hard to visualise quite a few of her ideas too, perhaps that is my own downfall though!

I would have liked to have seen a lot more of Laura's teaching job at the college, and feel this story was woefully underused in the book. I felt the pace and overall mood of the book really picked up when Laura's classes were the topic of the book, and I very much liked reading about her interactions with the young pupils and the class ideas. I simply didn't have the interest in Laura's job at home of designing that I did in her teaching job which was a shame as one was definitely more prevalent over the other in the book, unfortunately not the weighting I would have liked! I also found the inclusion of a family pet into the book to happen a bit too suddenly and perfectly, like everything seemed to fall into place for Laura a little too easily. Laura moans about being so broke yet suddenly has the finances to acquire a dog and all that goes along with it, it just didn't add up and was yet another annoying factor to add to the list.

Overall, I really can't recommend this book as I found it a chore to read and really disliked the main character who was just so unlikeable. It isn't especially well written, with scenes jumping about too much and not having a clear link between things leaving the readers to fill in the huge blanks by themselves. I didn't find the narrative overly great idea, especially as Laura was the narrator and all she seemed to do was moan like a teenager, not acting like an adult and mother. The crafty things in the book were constantly present, but didn't grasp my interest that much, and I found it hard to imagine a lot of Laura's "creations". I shan't go into the yurt obsession again but you know my thoughts on that. A disappointing debut that I really struggled with. Not recommended.

Thank you to the publishers for sending me a copy to review.

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