16 January 2012

Book Review: Happily Ever After by Harriet Evans

"At twenty-two, Eleanor Bee is sure about three things: she wants to move to London and become a literary superstar, she wants to be able to afford to buy a coffee and croissant every morning, and she doesn’t believe in happy endings. She saw what divorce did to her parents, especially her mum: happily ever after’s fine on the last page of a book, but it just doesn’t happen in real life.

Elle moves to London. She gets a job at Bluebird Books, a charmingly old-fashioned publishers. She falls out of pubs, wears too-short skirts, makes lots of mistakes and feels like she’s learning nothing and everything at the same time. And then, out of the blue, she falls in love, and that’s when she realises just how much growing up she has to do…

Ten years on, and Elle’s life has changed in ways she could never have predicted. Because no matter where you go and how much you try to run away, the past has a funny way of catching up with you, and Happily Ever After comes in all shapes and sizes…"

It's weird to me that Harriet Evans has written quite a few books and yet I've somehow only managed to only read a few of her books. I was glad to be sent a copy of her latest book Happily Ever After for review because I think the story sounded great, and I always have a soft spot for books which feature characters that have something to do with books (other than featuring in one of course!). I think the cover is really gorgeous as well, the white works really well with the red and green highlights, and is certainly enticing. It's quite a large book at nearly 500 pages, but I found it a very enjoyable that whizzed past as I read, and here's why.

Eleanor Bee, or Elle as she prefers to be called, was always a bit of a shy child, probably not helped by the awful relationship had by her parents as well. Elle loves books, and when she grows up, she manages to get a job working for an independent publishers Bluebird Books. Elle takes a while to settle in, and when things happen that she doesn't expect, Elle's life begins to suddenly change. Her relationship with her mother disintegrates as the alcohol problem plaguing their lives comes to the forefront again, and her job takes her in unexpected directions. Put this together with her poor relationships with men and Elle is starting to feel a bit lost with everything.

Doesn't sound too jolly so far does it? While the book isn't packed with laughs, it does cover some serious topics, most importantly Elle's mothers struggle with alcohol and how this impacts on not only her life, but Elle's, and the rest of her family too, and not just when they are young children. Some of the scenes are harder to read about than others, but they all play an important part in setting up the books, and the consequences the actions of all the characters have on each other. I found Elle's story quite sad really, she constantly blames herself for her mother's condition and as a reader, we're really wanting her to realise she isn't to blame. It does however highlight how hard it can be for children of alcoholic parents dealing with the responsibility, and the knock on effect it had for Elle with her brother and her father also was hard to read about.

I liked how Elle changed as a character as the moves on in time, and we can see the difference in her as her home life changes, and her role at work changes. Probably the only consistent thing about Elle in the book is her love of books, and I really loved her passion for the best stories she could find, and her job in publishing was really enjoyable to read about. Elle is determined to never give up on succeeding in publishing, and this was definitely my favourite part of the book. Overall, I felt it was a really good read that had me intrigued from start to finish, wondering how things would end up for Elle, both for her family life and in her relationships as well. Her mother's alcohol problems affects every part of her life, and it's fascinating to read about her learning to put that behind her a bit to try and move on with her life. I found Evans' writing style easy to read, and I enjoyed that the book spanned a good portion of Elle's life, not just a few months as is usually the case in books. I'd definitely recommend this, but don't expect a light-hearted and fluffy read - Happily Ever After certainly delivers a lot more than that.

Rating: 4/5

You can buy Happily Ever After as a paperback or as an eBook. (Links go to Amazon.co.uk).

1 comment:

  1. I've heard this title around town (aka, the blog) and with all the great reviews I think it's time I finally pick it up! Thank you for sharing!