Holiday Reading – April 2014

Three books this month and I’m afraid I have to go with my favourite first, The Forever Girl by Alexander McCall Smith.  I am a big fan of Smith’s Scotland Street and Corduroy Mansions books and his stand alone novels.  Funnily enough I’ve never read the series he is most famous for, No 1 Ladies Detective Agency.  But whenever I spot that he has written a new one off book I get excited.

The Forever Girl is all about love and whether to follow your heart.  Much of the book is set in the Cayman Islands and is focused on Clover and James, childhood friends, whose parents are ex-pats in the ‘idyll’ of Grand Cayman.  As Clover grows up her mum realises she has fallen out of love with her husband and it is around that time she discovers James’ dad is interested in her.  But can she follow her heart?

The Forever Girl

The Forever Girl – Alexander McCall Smith

Clover is growing up and as she moves into adulthood her friendship with James becomes more complicated as they both end up in Edinburgh at university but James is drifting away from her.  Will he ever realise what he is missing?

Smith writes unrequited love very well, he is brilliant at characters and getting under their skin, you really care about them, even the ones that aren’t that likeable.  Personally I found James really irritating and wanted to shake Clover on a number of occasions about her obsession with him.  Anyone who has experienced unrequited love in their late teens, early 20’s will be able to relate to Clover and her ploys to ‘bump into’ James in Edinburgh.  I found myself cringing on more than one occasion at the memories of trying to orchestrate accidental meetings with the person you had a crush on at university.

And, all credit to Smith too on how he writes about a place.  Despite reading the book in the UK I did feel transported to the Cayman Islands and I can imagine it would be a great book to read on a flight there or on the beach.  He also writes very honestly about being an ex-pat and doesn’t hide the disparities between the locals who do the work and the foreigners who come for the tax breaks and nice lifestyle.

I definitely recommend.  And as for Clover and James?  You’ll have to read the book to find out what happens.

I’m a bit late to the next book, The Shock Of The Fall by Nathan Filer.  It won COSTA Book of the Year 2013 and has had many a rave review and you can see why.  The book is narrated by Matthew and takes us back to his childhood and a terrible accident with his brother and the book goes from present to past as we follow Matthew’s complicated life and his relationship with his family since his brother’s death and how he tries to cope.

The Shock Of The Fall

The Shock Of The Fall – Nathan Filer

Filer is a registered mental health nurse and you feel confident as a reader that Matthew’s experience is genuine.  As a parent I found it difficult to read some bits as you can’t help but imagine your own child going through what Matthew and his family do but it is far from a depressing read and Jo Brand’s platitude of ‘Dark, touching, sweet and funny and beautifully written’ hits the nail on the head.

I don’t want to say too much more about it as it’s one of those books you should just read and then tell others about.  Go on…..

And, the final book this month is Skeletons by Jane Fallon.  Skeletons is her fifth novel and I’ve enjoyed her other four books, in particular Getting Rid Of Matthew which has some great twists.  Obviously as this book has been written by a woman and is about relationships it is dubbed as ‘chick lit’, a term I hate.  Like her other books it focuses on relationships and infidelity in particular.

Jen and Jason have been married for years and are just adjusting to their two daughters leaving home and trying to work out who they are as a couple rather than just being parents.  Jason comes from a big family who are very close which is the opposite of Jen who feels that her own home life was far from perfect and she loves her in-laws.  That is until she finds out a secret about one of them which could blow the whole family apart and destroy the ‘perfect’ family she is now a part of.

Disappointingly I worked out the first two ‘twists’ in the book before they were revealed which meant I was a bit frustrated as I was reading it but Fallon didn’t disappoint with further twists towards the end which I didn’t see coming.  I found Jen pretty irritating and childish and sometimes found myself wanting to shout ‘just tell him the truth’ at the pages but then I suppose that wouldn’t make such an interesting book if everyone was honest from the start.

Fallon’s background is as a TV producer with This Life and Teachers amongst others on her CV and this comes across in her writing.  You can imagine the book working as a two parter TV drama, which is no criticism.

If you’re looking for a book to lose yourself in then this is the one for you.  Although you may be best to avoid it if you’re a parent who is about to become an ’empty nester’.




  1. I do love the No 1 ladies detective agency books and highly recommend them if you get chance – I hadn’t come across this new one, but having visited Cayman, it would be interesting to read as I think his books always evoke the place so well.

    • I’m going to give them a go as I really enjoy his other books. And I agree, he’s brilliant at giving a sense of place, I could smell it and everything and I’ve never been 🙂

      Hope you get chance to do some reading while you are away.

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