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3.8 out of 5 stars
The Life You Want
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 20 July 2009
I'm quite puzzled by the antipathy of some reviewers - this is another excellent novel from Barr, although I almost didn't read it because of the reviews. Reading the book, I just didn't recognise the description of the writing as lazy - the depictions of Chennai and Pondicherry were nuanced, sensitive and evocative of the experience of a lone female traveller. I don't think it's fair to imply the book fails for not being a complete or wholly accurate picture of all of India, since that isn't at all what it is setting out to do. I'm not normally a fan of travel writing (although I will always make an exception for Geoff Dyer as well as this author) but Barr has certainly not lost her talent for combining cracking plots, credible dialogue and characters who are less than perfect (but all the more believable and entertaining for that) with a sense of location and of the experience of travel which sets her apart. Tansy Evans has developed into the parent and wife you might have expected her to become since Backpack - the evocation of parenthood and the complexities of feeling that parents have about children and parenting reduced me to tears at points, whilst she has retained the spirit and wit that made me laugh out loud when I read Backpack. I thoroughly recommend this book, especially if you've been a fan of any of Barr's other novels.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 7 April 2009
Good read from start to finish, Emily Barr has got this special gift that doesn't allow you to put her book away, mixing travel facts with fiction makes you want to choose a destination a become one of her characters.
This time it's India and if you haven't been there after reading this book you will definitely want to go there. It also answers that question many married woman ask themselves- " Am I happy with what I've got?, " have I married the right man?", " where am I in my life...?"
Read it and find for yourself... :-)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 16 November 2009
The Life You Want is Emily Barr's eighth novel and the sequel to her first novel Backpack. Now I haven't actually read Backpack because I just couldn't get into it but I wanted to read The Life You Want so went ahead and read it anyway. We pick up with Tansy a decade after Backpack and find out she's married to Max and has two children Toby and Joe. In her opening sentence she tells us she thinks she's having a breakdown. Not only that but she drinks a lot, forgets to pick up her children and contemplates an affair with her son's teacher. To save herself she heads of to India by herself to help out Elly, an old friend. It seems, though, that Elly isn't all she seemed....

Even though I found Tansy an incredibly irritating character, I loved the book. It wasn't as good as The Sisterhood which was fabulous but it was a really enjoyable read. I loved the descriptions of Indian towns and what it's like to travel in India and, I admit, it sounded nothing like I expected it to sound. Like Tansy when I imagine India I think of poor people begging on the streets the whole time. Emily didn't describe it like that at all.

The book is written in first-person which was enjoyable because we got all of Tansy's thoughts. While I say I found her irritating, at least she admitted she was a rubbish mother and wasn't cut out to live in London forever with a steady job. It still didn't stop me thinking she was selfish though for leaving her husband and children to go off to India. She kept saying she wasn't like her alcoholic mother but she was. I alternated between liking Tansy and wanting to slap her. She was selfish to leave her kids but I liked her honesty. She's definitely an anti-heroine and is like Marmite - you'll either love her or hate her.

As well as Tansy's point-of-view we regularly read blog posts from a woman called Alexia who is adopting a child from India named Sasika. We follow her on her journey, through her blog posts, all the way - even when everything goes topsy-turvy. I would have liked a few more blog posts from Alexia because it was a great part of the story and helped, also, with the main plot of the story. The ending seemed slightly rushed. Apart from that, I really enjoyed the book. I didn't find it as much of a page-turner as The Sisterhood but it was another great read from Emily and I look forward to her next.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 7 September 2011
I thorougly enjoyed Backpack although I was never sure if I warmed to Tansy. However, I could hardly wait to get a copy of the sequel The Life You Want. At first, I felt the same antipathy towards Tansy but on reflection decided that I liked her 'less- than- perfect mother and wife' lifestyle and the temptation she faced with the teacher!!. I loved reading about her travels and India. My heart bled for Alexia and I liked the way the two stories were portrayed. I enjoyed reading about her meeting with Ethan and was glad she sought him out later. I think Emily Barr built up a great picture/ atmosphere of India. I read this book on holiday and when my husband had finished reading all his Financial papers he asked me if he could read one of my books if I had finished them. I 'confessed' that I only had 'chick lit' and gave him 'The Life You want'. He coiuld hardly put it down and then went on to read Emily Barr's 'First wife' which I had finished and was gripped by that too!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 20 July 2010
I was given this book (looking a little well-read and well-loved!) by a friend and grabbed it, whilst packing, to read on the beach. What a great choice. I was reminded, from time to time, of the book 'The Beach' in which the reader was whisked away to Thailand. I felt I was in India with Tansy. I will not take you through the plot, I will leave that to others. I could see, smell and taste India. A well-written thrill ride. Thought-provoking and gripping from start to finish.

I kicked myself when I realised this is a sequel to 'Backpack' which I have yet to read. However, it is a great 'stand alone' novel. I shall now read 'Backpack' as soon as I can get my hands on it.

Emily Barr is a wonderful writer.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 14 March 2010
I absolutely love Emily Barr's books, my favourite of which so far is Backpack. I think Tansy Harris is such a well written character, and was so pleased to discover that Emily Barr had decided to write a sequel to Backpack, as that story was left quite open ended. At first I was quite concerned with how much the character of Max had changed since the first book, but the story worked itself out brilliantly in the end. My only slight grievance was that the loose ends regarding Tansy's brother were never tied up. However, all in all this is another great, addictive read, and I would recommend it to anyone. Now what I really want is a sequel to Baggage!
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Tansy Harris, the heroine of Emily Barr's first novel, 'Backpack' is back. At the end of 'Backpack', Tansy (having narrowly escaped the attentions of a serial killer) was finally making an effort to conquer her inner demons, and planning a new life with her hippy boyfriend Max. Now, some ten years on (I think?) Max has - somewhat improbably - abandoned hippydom for a job in the City and the designer suits to match, and Tansy is a depressed housewife, looking after her two small sons in the family's smart London flat, and drinking a little more each day. When, out of sheer boredom, she begins a flirtation with her son's teacher, she realizes that something has to change. Luckily at that point her old friend Elly (the Australian tourist from 'Backpack') gets in touch. Elly is now helping to run a children's adoption centre in India near Pondicherry, and suggests that Tansy come out to help her for a few weeks. With Max's encouragement, Tansy heads off to Elly's adoption centre/ashram. There, she finds a surprisingly tranquil new self emerging as she plays with the children and gradually kicks her drinking habit. But before long, she begins to sense that there's something slightly odd about Elly's set-up. Why is an Indian policeman hanging around the area so much? Why does Elly send her on a secret mission to hand over a small child? And who is Elly's mysterious partner? Gradually, Tansy realizes that something is very wrong, and that she might be in terrible danger. Tansy's story is interleaved with brief diary extracts from Alexia, an American woman who wants to adopt a child from Elly's ashram, and who travels to India, only to find that things don't go quite according to plan.

As rather vivid light reading, that gives quite a detailed sense of Indian life, I'd recommend this book. It kept me busy during a few long tube rides, and is a quick but engrossing read. Barr is very good at bringing the smells, tastes and landscape of Southern India to life, and her ambivalence about Elly's enterprise keeps you thinking - and will make readers want to find out more about India and its adoption policies. As travel writing, I enjoyed the book. My problem was that I didn't like most of the characters. I found Tansy self-indulgent and irritating - if she was that troubled, why didn't she get professional help? - and Max emotionally obtuse. I didn't believe that Elly had the cunning to do what was implied, and also felt that Barr could have explained exactly why she chose the options she did more clearly. Alexia (and I'm not entirely sure her diary entries were necessary to the book) came across as naive to the point of extreme stupidity - why would anyone attempt to adopt a child simply by e-mailing a random address handed to them on a blog? - and also incredibly bland, as did her husband - they were caricatures of 'small town' Americans. So, while I followed the characters' situations and adventures with some interest, I could never really care about any of them, which meant that the book left me rather cold.

Ultimately a book that passes the time, and has some insights into modern India, but on an emotional level a very unsatisfying read.
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on 25 November 2012
I scanned the reviews and was put off by a few 1 star reviews, but I loved Backpack so I had to see how Tansy & Co turned out. I really liked this follow up, which featured Barr's usual blend of plot twists, realistic characters, ethical grey areas and evocative place descriptions. Some reviewers seem to have read this as a stand-alone - questioning what the 'big trauma' in Tansy's past is all about. Well that's in Backpack so read that first. Other reviewers feel Max remaining true to this 'self indulgent alcoholic' is far fetched. But actually the clever thing about this novel is that Barr has to write a first person narrative from the perspective of someone racked with guilt, self doubt and self loathing. So Tansy's descriptions of herself as a terrible mother & human being etc are distorted. Reading between the lines it is clear that her boys are nurtured and loved, while her ability to connect with the CC children and her fierce maternal instincts when dealing with the orphanage show that her parenting instincts and skills are just fine. Tansy experiences the normal boredom, frustration and doubt of motherhood and concludes she is a dreadful parent. Similarly, she snarls and sneers her way round the world to hide desperate insecurity. For me, the character remained entirely believable throughout. Far more so that if she and Max had skipped merrily off into the Pondicherry sunset and lived happily ever after. This is a great follow up and I loved it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 25 October 2010
I read this book at around the same time I read another novel set in India - Breathing in Colour by Clare Jay - and I found both excellent in totally different ways. Emily Barr's book has thought-provoking insights into child trafficking and the burden of childlessness, and evokes India in light but sensitive prose. This was the first of her books that I've read and I will definitely buy others of hers.
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on 7 June 2013
I loved Backpack. In fact I have enjoyed all the Emily Barr books I have read especially Sisterhood but this one is just not as good. I liked Tansy in the first book but she is now a self absorbed, selfish wife and mother. I am not sure any husbands would willingly agree to their wives jumping ship to chase a dream but maybe my marriage is too conventional!
Some of the descriptions of India were wonderful and i could almost smell the spices but the storyline bordered on ridiculous at times.

As for the ending........
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