20 June 2012

Book Review: What I Did On My Holidays by Chrissie Manby

"Sophie Sturgeon can't wait for her annual summer holiday. Not only will it be a week away from work, it will be a chance to reconnect with her boyfriend Callum.

So this upcoming trip to Majorca is a big deal. Sophie's spent a lot of time getting ready. She's bought a new wardrobe. She's been waxed to within an inch of her life. She's determined she and Callum will have the best time ever.

Then Callum dumps her, the night before they're due to leave. In a show of bravery and independence, Sophie says she'll go to Majorca alone - but in fact, she hides in her London flat. But when her friends, family, and even Callum seem so surprised and delighted at her single girl courage, Sophie decides to go all out and recreate the ultimate 'fake break' . . . with hilarious results."

Rating: 3/5

Although Chrissie Manby has published a lot of novels under several different names, somehow I've only managed to read a few of them. I really enjoyed her seasonal novel Kate's Wedding which came out last year in time for the Royal wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton, and which delayed the release of this book by a year. When the cover was released, I thought it was a really fun, summery cover, and I loved the fake postcard look too, it tied in well the with the idea of the book. I also thought the premise of the book sounded fun, and isn't a topic that I think has been covered in chick lit before, so I was looking forward to something new and fun here!

Sophie feels sick when the night before her special birthday holiday to Majorca with her boyfriend Callum, he dumps her and tells her he won't be accompanying her on their holiday. Sophie is devastated, but also mortified about being dumped, especially as the pair work together. To save face, she decides to stay at home in her flat, but tell everyone else that she's happily sunning herself in Majorca and getting over Callum. But when her sister Clare finds out Sophie isn't really abroad, she decides to join in on the fake holiday, and the sisters begin to try and enjoy their new found freedom, albeit limited to Sophie's flat! Will their fake break be found out by their friends, and will Sophie get over Callum in time to return to work and face him once again?

My biggest problem with What I Did On My Holidays was that it just didn't seem to go anywhere for me. It had so much potential to be a great story, but I really felt that the fake holiday never really took off, despite Sophie's sister Clare really wanting to go all out for the break and take advantage of a few days break from real life! Sophie seemed reticent to join in anything, being a bit of a stuck-in-the-mud about things and generally not enjoying herself. I realised that she is pining after and missing her ex-boyfriend Callum, but even so I wanted her to snap out of it a bit and just enjoy herself! I did find Sophie a little hard to like at times, far preferring her sister Clare who was more up for a laugh, but behind her smile held secrets about her own relationship that she was keeping from Sophie.

In many ways, this was a very different read for me, because rather than having a large cast of characters, lots of locations and things going on, the book was fairly static as it spent 90% of its time in Sophie's small flat, and with just 2 characters. This meant Manby really had to work to make these characters interesting to read about, and at times it just didn't work for me. I found myself getting bored of Sophie, but there were some funny moments in there which saved the day for me. I especially enjoyed how the girls thoroughly researched the area of Majorca they were staying in, almost to the point of forgetting they weren't actually there themselves. Manby writes well about the Balearic island too, it certainly sounds a world away from Sophie's London flat, and her job as a PA in a lift company!

While the book had some good moments, the lack of direction was a real shame and did drag the book down for me as well. It felt like a pretty short read as well, and I didn't feel like I had really gotten it before it was suddenly all over and it felt like the idea wasn't fully utilised well enough as I was really expecting much more from the book. I think it's a good beach read to make you smile when you don't want anything too heavy to read, but for me it just didn't quite reach it's potential unfortunately. The book's issues about relationships are well written, and I enjoyed the idea of having a holiday at home, something pretty relevant in these credit crunch times, and I perhaps wish Clare had been the main character, not Sophie because at least she gave it her all! A light-hearted look at fake holidays to make you smile but doesn't really begin before it ends!

You can buy What I Did On My Holidays as a paperback or an eBook now.

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