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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Warm and Involving Family Story
It is 1947; we are in India, a country on the brink of independence, and Will and Flo Sutherland, a newly married couple, expecting their first baby, are trying to arrange passage home to England. Will, who came out to India in the 1930s as a sugar cane planter and then served in the Indian Army during the war, is reluctant to leave his colonial life behind, but knows the...
Published 9 months ago by Susie B

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing!
Will and Flo Sutherland, met and married whilst in India post WW2.
The British are leaving India and the couple return to England. Now with 2 children Will realises his dream to own his farm, however life on a farm does not met with Flo’s expectations.
Life events lead them to give up the farm and Will seeks employment while Flo decides to ‘write a...
Published 9 months ago by Gloria


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Warm and Involving Family Story, 12 Jun. 2014
By 
Susie B - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Coming Home (Paperback)
It is 1947; we are in India, a country on the brink of independence, and Will and Flo Sutherland, a newly married couple, expecting their first baby, are trying to arrange passage home to England. Will, who came out to India in the 1930s as a sugar cane planter and then served in the Indian Army during the war, is reluctant to leave his colonial life behind, but knows the time has come to go home, and Flo, who came to India at the end of the war with the hopes of changing her life, is keen to return to her family and show them her handsome new husband. A couple of years later, and with two young children: toddler, Bea, and baby, Freddie, Will and Flo arrive in rural Devon, eager to start a whole new life, managing a farm they have leased from a relative of Will's. Farm life however, is much harder than either of them imagined - Will is not as physically strong as he had thought and the long hours and back-breaking work takes its toll on his health, and Flo struggles to combine the stresses of domestic life with her heartfelt desire to become a writer. When farm life becomes too much for Will, their lives change again when he begins work as regional secretary for the Rural Landowners' Society, but this job has its pressures too. And then things become too much for Flo...

Put quite simply, Sue Gee's latest novel 'Coming Home' is the warm and involving story of the Sutherlands' life together as a middle-class family, starting in 1947 and ending in 2009, involving life and death; physical and mental illness; love and heartbreak; and uncertainties and misunderstandings. This book is beautifully written, with believable characters (I particularly enjoyed the character of Freddie and was totally drawn into his unhappy experiences at boarding school), there are some wonderful descriptions of landscape and situation, and overall I found this novel an emotive and rewarding read. It is quite a leisurely-paced story and it was rather sad in some places, just as real life is sad, but it's one of those stories that reminds us of the importance of family and of how although we cannot choose our relations, and they don't always behave the way we would like them to, our experiences with those family members, and our memories of them, are so important and help to shape our lives. Sue Gee is a talented and perceptive writer and her latest novel is one that makes a very good read for bedtime or down-times, and one to share with others.

4 Stars.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Trials and Joys of Family Life, 9 Jun. 2014
By 
Kate Hopkins (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Coming Home (Paperback)
Sue Gee's tenth novel (though she seems to have disowned her seventh, 'Thin Air'!) is a tribute to her parents, and based closely on their lives. Will Sutherland and Felicity Davies meet in India at the end of World War II. Will has been out in India since 1938, working as a planter, then serving in India, Palestine and throughout the Middle East during World War II. Felicity (who renames herself with the rather drab name 'Flo' after meeting Will) came out to India to do war work during World War II, following an unhappy love affair. Flo and Will fall passionately in love, marry, conceive a child on their honeymoon, and, with Indian independence imminent, decide to relocate to England and try their luck there. To begin with, all goes well: Will trains as a farmer, the couple have a second child, and the family move to an idyllic farm in Devon, rented out to them by Will's rich cousin. But Will proves not strong enough for farm work, and after a few years the family are on the move - first to Leicestershire, where Will gets a job in agricultural administration, and later to Surrey, when he is promoted. By this time, it's clear that family life is not as blissful and easy as Will and Flo hoped. Flo struggles to reconcile her desire to be a good wife and mother, her hatred of cooking and most housework (apart from interior design and furnishing) and her longing to write a novel about her love affair with Will in India, for which there never seems enough time. Freddie, the couple's son, is packed off to boarding school at the age of eight - he hates it, and over the years his loneliness there makes him find it hard to express emotion, and makes him come to a strange conclusion about his parents and their relationship to him. And Beatrice (first known by the rather coy nickname Baba, later called Bea), the daughter, based on Gee herself, worries about the sense of 'distance' and detachment she feels from events and her inability to express her emotions, while also increasingly relishing reading, and turning her life into 'stories' by writing. Gee traces the life of the family from 1945 to 2009, tracking triumphant achievements, bereavements, illnesses, the family's shared delight in nature, Will's desire to record information about his Indian heritage, Flo's continuing need to write, and the changing world around the family as Bea and Freddie grow up, and Will and Flo gradually come to a greater knowledge of their marriage and each other.

Gee is a wonderfully evocative writer, and her descriptions of the 1950s (the sense of hope after World War II, but also the awful food - particularly if, like Flo, you largely fed your family from tins!) and 1960s, of the different homes that the family live in and of their changing social life were wonderful. She writes well from a child's point of view (only occasionally lapsing into sentimentality with the small Baba) and I particularly enjoyed her descriptions of family holidays, including visits to Flo's sister in Bournemouth. I also liked the way that she compared Flo and Will's expectations and feelings to those of Bea and Freddie in the next generation - and the Indian background was fascinating. Nevertheless, I found this a strangely sad book. For so much of the time, the family seemed to have terrible problems communicating. For me, this was illustrated above all in the sad deaths of the family pets - two (a hen and a goose) killed by accident by Will, who didn't even realize they were pets, and one (the family cat Snowy) knocked down by a car. It seemed to be very significant that though Snowy had been so important to the family and one of the things that united them, no one ever talked about replacing him. And there were other, deeper non-communication issues - the fact that Will never really understood the importance of Flo's writing, the fact that Flo couldn't organize her days in order to provide the fresh, home-cooked food that Will loved, the awful 'silence' over Flo's period of illness, Flo's failure to notice Bea's teenage illness and her inability to persuade Will to let Freddie go to day school, Will's inability to talk to Freddie about his homesickness, Bea's inability to help Freddie - and more. I think part of the reason that I found the book very melancholy was that we saw little of the characters at times when they were really happy. For example, we were told that Will and Flo had had a great romance - but we never saw it in action, and though India was so important to the novel, there was very little of the book actually set there, so we didn't see Will and Flo at their happiest. Nor did we see enough of the later lives of Freddie and Bea, particularly Bea's 'great love' with Stephen and her growing success as a literature teacher. Gee also tended to concentrate more with Freddie and Bea's adolescence on their family frustrations than their joy in discovering what they enjoyed academically - I'd have liked more about how the world of books helped Bea to define her personality, for example. True, there was some feeling of resolution at the end, particularly with Will's confession to Flo about how his personality had formed, but I still felt the novel was infused with an air of melancholy. Gee has often written about loss and non-communication before, but in earlier novels ('Reading in Bed', for example, or 'Earth and Heaven' or 'Spring will be Ours' there's a sense that one can be helped to rise above the frustrations of daily life by literature, art, music, nature or simply a good meal. There was not enough of that in this book, where I felt the characters were for the most part somewhat trapped in the limitations of their daily lives. Nevertheless, at its best, the writing is stunning, and the characters very appealing, and as a piece of cultural history I'd say it's an absolute must-read. Not my favourite Sue Gee, but one I was very glad to have read, and will certainly read again.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good book - worth reading, 12 July 2014
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This review is from: Coming Home (Paperback)
I found this to be an involving novel, original and enjoyable. I hadn't read anything by Sue Gee before, but will certainly try some of her other books.

I particularly liked the fact that there is a lot of dialogue in this story - I always find dialogue propels a book forward, much more so than pages of description. But Ms Gee also has an evocative yet economical way of capturing the way things look, particularly within the natural world [sunlight through a window, the vivid green grass where the geese wander, the chalky path up on the hills] - I found her scene-setting lovely, and quite reminiscent of the novelist, Elizabeth Taylor.

I liked all the characters and felt deep sympathy for poor little Freddie at prep school, and for Flo during her spell in hospital.

There was a lot less about India and Flo and Will's lives there before they met and married - this was a little disappointing, as it would have been nice to have more background detail on both characters. However, that aside, this is a good story [actually, it is Sue Gee's own parents' story] and it is well told.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing!, 27 Jun. 2014
This review is from: Coming Home (Paperback)
Will and Flo Sutherland, met and married whilst in India post WW2.
The British are leaving India and the couple return to England. Now with 2 children Will realises his dream to own his farm, however life on a farm does not met with Flo’s expectations.
Life events lead them to give up the farm and Will seeks employment while Flo decides to ‘write a book’ about her life in India.
The story progresses through the 1950’s and 1960’s following the family’s trials and tribulations.

This book was a total disappointment. There is a lot of detail relevant to this time era however there is a total lack of substance, depth and emotion in the telling. Events described are shallow with minimal explanation and are quickly discarded only mentioned briefly throughout the story.

I was brought up in this time era and was looking forward to reading this story, the only fond memories it evoked was fish fingers and Dansette record players.
Reading this was a 'hard slog' only persisting in the hope that I would be enlightened. I was not!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Lovely, 11 Aug. 2014
This review is from: Coming Home (Paperback)
Sue Gee is a clever writer of gentle prose and this latest novel is the thinly-disguised tale of her mother and father, and her own childhood. Flo and Will leave India in 1947 as the Empire flag is lowered there, and they come back to England to make their lives together. Gee tenderly explores the emotional fallout of their stuttering start on a Devon farm, and their subsequent attempt to build a successful family life. These people adhere to values and principles that barely exist any more - and we should probably be grateful for that - and Gee manages to make her principle characters sympathetic, while still highlighting their weaknesses and failings. After this, try Hours of the Night and Earth and Heaven - both also terrific.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Highly reccommended., 6 Aug. 2014
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This review is from: Coming Home (Paperback)
Brilliant read, exceeded my expectations, quite excited for further reads from this Author.
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Coming Home
Coming Home by Sue Gee (Paperback - 22 May 2014)
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