Utterly lovely! A rare chick-lit book – very funny with sharp observations and believable characters. And I don’t even like chick-lit!!
Nicky Hobbs looks the way we all secretly would like to look: tall, peachy skin, curvy, with long red hair that sproings and boings all over the place. And she hates it! Aaargh! But then for all her intelligence, her kind heart and her fantastic organisational abilities (she’s a primary school teacher so these character aspects are vital), she’s utterly clueless about men. It’s obvious from the first breath that Rob, her old flame, is a slime ball. I mean, no man could be this creepy (except, of course, they are) and get away with it. You’ll tear your hair out as she dithers and thithers and is continuously sucked into his smarmy man-trap. He plays on all her weaknesses: he knows she wants a family (husband, babies, mortgage) but she also wants a career. When they are both offered the headship and are forced to compete for the position by the slightly dotty headmistress, he uses every dirty trick to get her to withdraw. And she doesn’t notice! She honestly thinks he’s nice! AAAAAARGH!
To add to the wonderful romantic complications, into the story steps Mark, whom we know from the first breathless breath, is Mr Right. Except he has to have a life-change first. When he does, you rather wish he’d step into your life. Do they really make men like this? (Answers on a postcard.)
Despite this being almost entirely set in a primary school, there isn’t anything cutesy or sugary about it. Even the kids are great. It feels just exactly like a London primary school (I speak from experience) and I love the idea of the giant jigsaw puzzle in the head’s office that everyone has to have a go at before they are allowed to leave. There are no stereotypes either – every character is interesting and at their best when fighting it out. Nicky is wonderful when she lets rip, saying all the things we wish we could say in an argument but only think of later.
My only gripe is that the book’s message is hammered home just once too often for me: the terrible choice between career and babies that women in their thirties have to make and the struggle to have both without letting either side down. This message was rather obvious from the very beginning and I could have done without Nicky’s endless ruminations on the subject.
But I’m loathe to say anything negative about this book. I was very sad when I discovered this was the last book Melissa Nathan wrote before dying of breast cancer about six years ago. I could have read a hundred more books by this wonderful author.
[Just as an aside, I’ve written about nine book reviews so far, most of which I’ve published on Amazon – and most of which have gone missing from Amazon. What do they do? Dump them if no one looks at them?? They didn’t publish my Alastair Reynolds one at all….was it because I used the word DAMN? Which has got all the power of a fluffy chick in my book. Perhaps I should drop the Amazon thing. It’s hardly a career move.]