25 July 2011

Book Review: A Rural Affair by Catherine Alliott

Newly widowed Poppy Shilling should be feeling distraught at the death of her husband, Phil. But, instead, she can't help feeling relieved. No longer will she have to endure Phil's iron fist ruling over her and their two young children, or his unfortunate penchant for lycra cycling wear.
What's more, when a secret is revealed after his death, Poppy's memories of their life together are turned upside down.

Freed from the shackles of her loveless marriage, Poppy is determined not to make the same mistakes again. Fully embracing village life, she becomes the object of the local menfolk's affections- from Bob, the resident odd ball, to Luke, the sexy church organist. But it's just her luck that the one man who catches her eye can't seem to let go of his glamorous ex wife...

Will Poppy have the courage to follow her heart and refuse to settle for second best? It's time for a new beginning, and a chance to discover what real love feels like...
I've not yet read a Catherine Alliott novel, but I was looking forward to trying her new novel A Rural Affair. I was really put off by the cover at first - it really isn't inspiring and I don't think opens up the book to a wide age demographic, but I was willing to give it a go anyway. The idea of a wife being somewhat relieved at the death of her husband was quite interesting, and I wondered how Alliott would approach the issue and continue Poppy's story. At 464 pages, it isn't a short novel and I did find it hard going at times, I do felt it could have been a bit shorter with some scenes being easily cut, but I carried on nonetheless and ploughed through the book as best I could.

I have to be honest and say that I really hated Poppy. Yes, I understood that her husband got on her nerves and wasn't the best father in the world to their children, but I really found it quite offensive in parts the way she spoke about him after his death. Yes, she says she may have felt guilty afterwards but I just found myself getting annoyed by her constant diatribe about him, and this made her very unsympathetic in my eyes. As she got on with her life, I didn't find myself egging her on to be happy again, I just felt indifferent and that wasn't how I suppose Alliott wanted us to feel about her really!

None of the other characters were especially nice people either if I'm honest. Her next door neighbour Jennie is perhaps the most realistic of the bunch, struggling in her marriage to her husband, and with her step-daughter Frankie, one of the characters I actually really liked! I liked how Jennie's story unfolded, and I did sympathise with her struggles a bit more than I did Poppy. Angie is another of Poppy's friends, one who hasn't had an easy time of it but is again trying to get her life back on track. She's very judgmental and bossy, again a bit unlikeable, somewhat of a recurring theme in this novel don't you think!

 There was a scene involving Poppy going hunting on a horse for the first time which was just utterly ridiculous. I found myself skipping through a lot of it as it was just pathetic, trying too hard to be funny but I just wasn't interested at all. It seemed totally out of place in the context of the book, and seemed like Poppy was trying to be like everyone around her rather than herself. It made a fool out of another character, Angie, too and I just wasn't interested in reading it. Once it was over, it got back to Poppy's normal life again so I settled back into reading it, but for the life of me I can't understand why this silly and over the top scene was stuck in the middle of this book.

Overall, I can't say I loved this book and felt a bit indifferent towards it once I turned the last page. It's rather long and I found myself struggling to pick it up at times because it felt like it was dragging and because I didn't like the characters, it felt even more of a struggle. The cover is very demotivating in terms of making me want to like it - it's bland, plain and not at all fun looking, and doesn't make me inspired into reading the book. It's a shame that I didn't enjoy it, as I say this is my first forray into Catherine Alliott's novels and it's a pretty disappointing ones. I imagine fans of her books will love this, but sadly it just wasn't for me. The unlikeable characters, the slow moving plot and silly hunting scene just didn't add up to make a good story for me, so it's not one I can highly recommend.

Rating: 2/5


  1. I've gone off Catherine Alliott in the last couple of years, which is a shame because "Rosie Meadows Regrets" and "Olivia's Luck" are brilliant. I'll either give this one a miss or wait until my local library gets it in

  2. Thanks for review Chole, Doesn't sound my kind of novel at all.

  3. Nice, honest review Chloe! I haven't read it yet but I was intending to - maybe not now!
    You should read Alliott's earlier books - the first 3/4 were absolutely brilliant and made me laugh out loud. She used to be my favourite author about ten years ago. Sadly, I think she has a tendency to rehash the same old plot lines and, as you say, stick in scenes which are supposed to be funny apparently randomly which really doesn't work.

  4. Yes her earlier work was laugh out loud funny. I've been struggling with the new one, but after your review, I'll move onto something else. Thanks.