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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Now this is what I call a Rom Com, 15 Jun 2009
By 
M. R. Cutler - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I want to congratulate Helen Cross on being one of the few non Muslim authors to write about British Asians as if they were people- have, as George Eliot puts it an equivalent centre of self, of which their religion is a part, but a natural part to them, as Dorothea's Christianity is to her-you can see how much I liked it if it makes me think of Middlemarch! And she gives that same sense of self to another vilified tabloid creation-the single mother. Walk a mile in my moccasins the Native Americans say, and with Helen's help we walk in Amir's smart slip ons, Jackie's spike heels and Elle's trainers, and see the complex world beyond those tabloid headlines-funny, tender, touching- and brilliantly observed.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wickedly funny with a warm but unsentimental edge, 19 Oct 2009
Strong characterisation, clever writing, funny and believable dialogue - 'Spilt Milk, Black Coffee' has it all. In Jackie Jackson - a twice-divorced, self-confessed bad mother pushing forty but still acting like a teenager - Helen Cross has created a character who, despite (or perhaps because of) her flaws, will enthrall rather than appall. Anyone reading this novel is sure to become just as fascinated by Jackie as the other characters in the novel end unwillingly find themselves.

As is the fashion these days, the novel is written from multiple viewpoints, but in this case it's more than just a gimmick. Jackie herself never takes on narration duties, meaning the reader always sees her through the eyes of others; an important technique, as the various perceptions of Jackie are a key theme of the text. It's impossible not to warm to our two main narrators - Jackie's tomboy daughter Elle, who adores her mum while desperate to avoid turning into her, and Amir, obsessed by Jackie despite significant age and cultural differences between the two. Both characters are brilliantly written, but Cross's portrayal of Elle - an adult before her time, yet heartbreakingly childlike underneath - is particularly poignant. Although Elle and Amir's paths only really cross once until the end of the novel, it's a pivotal moment, and their differing perceptions of the incident sets up much of the action.

If you're looking for a novel with fast-paced action and a big finale, 'Spilt Milk, Black Coffee' probably isn't for you; the plot on its own is fairly slow, although the strength of the characterisation and scene-setting makes this almost irrelevant. However, if you enjoy getting to know well-written characters, are a fan of realistic, down to earth humour, and enjoy relationships that are warm without being schmaltzy, 'Spilt Milk, Black Coffee' is sure to satisfy. Helen Cross may not be a big-name author yet, but if she continues to produce novels of this quality, that's certain to change.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth watching out for, 22 May 2009
By 
Rosie Ross (North of England) - See all my reviews
I enjoyed this book as it was so very different from my usual choice (though I had been looking out for it since Cross's last one, The Secrets She Keeps) : I think this book takes an admirable risk and tells it like it probably is. When I curled up with the book, I didn't seem like I'd stayed put, on my own settee! It drew me in with its story, made me laugh sometimes and had my heart racing with a fast-paced concluding section.

Helen Cross's ear for language made reading the book seem almost like listening to a gripping radio play. She is a writer I am pleased I watched out for.

Rosie Ross
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spilt Milk, Black Coffee - poetic, sensitive and a great story, 20 Aug 2009
By 
Halstead Catherineruth (Italy) - See all my reviews
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Definitely Helen's best work so far. In Spilt Milk, Black coffee Helen has perfected her particular poetic style and created an entralling narrative set in a multi-racial British community. By presenting the story through the perspectives of different characters - a child torn between divorced parents, Asian Amir and a white, working-class single mother hungry for love and shiny shoes, we get a comprehensive, unbiased picture of modern Britain. Wise,sensitive and sometimes humorous. And a great story - the Christmas flight to Bridlington at the end was riveting.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rom Com in Bradford (?), 21 Mar 2014
This review is from: Spilt Milk, Black Coffee (Paperback)
I generally don't like rom com books - often advertised as "wickedly funny" but tending to be cliched and predictable. But Helen Cross has been very brave in attempting a male British Muslim POV which seems authentic but not being of Bangladeshi origin myself I find it hard to judge. However, I did find that Amir's vernacular vocabulary tended to repeat itself quite a lot. The Elle (12 year old girl) POV seemed a bit disjointed - the relationship with her mother seemed all over the place but this is probably right for that age.
The novel is one massive flashback from the steps of the registry office and it is sometimes hard to follow the time jumps. However I liked the sense of place and the descriptions of the family reunions and life in urban multicultural Britain. The plot isn't complex - basically a will he/she won't he/she dilemma but it has reasonable pace.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Spilt Milk Black Coffee, 5 Aug 2013
This review is from: Spilt Milk, Black Coffee (Paperback)
I really enjoyed Spilt Milk, Black Coffee, though it might not be everyone's cup of tea. It's a simple enough book which plays havoc with tenses as it gets to grip with its two principal narrative voices and the chronology of the story, and it's both funny and moving.

Helen Cross has based the plot around the tabloid news story of a woman who went on holiday to Greece (or Spain), leaving her 11 year old daughter home alone. In the press she was treated as a caricature, a typical modern case of selfish abandonment. Helen Cross fleshes out the details of Jackie's character by showing her from the point of view of her abandoned daughter, and through the eyes of a Pakistani colleague. These two characters are interesting: Elle, the daughter, is torn between her father, with his new, very normal wife, and her chaotic mother; Amir is in love with Jackie, and in conflict with his family, and the responsibilities he feels towards them and their traditions.

The story begins as Jackie is about to get married for a third time, and the alternating points of view unravel the story and show us more of Jackie, and especially more of both Amir and Elle. The Daily Mail says, "empathic, memorable, defiantly beautiful." It was all these things.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing!, 14 Jun 2013
This review is from: Spilt Milk, Black Coffee (Paperback)
I was staggered by the quality of this book. I loved the contrast between the grittiness of the story, and the morality which shone through. It was brilliantly written, the characters were engaging, and the themes and plot were captivating. I will now be reading through the back catalogue of this writer's work. Top job!

Louise Gillett
Author of 'Surviving Schizophrenia: A Memoir'.
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Spilt Milk, Black Coffee
Spilt Milk, Black Coffee by Helen Cross (Paperback - 3 May 2010)
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