The Flower Seller Paperback – 2 Jun 2016
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It is a love story, and the main characters are Jessie Martin, her estranged husband, William Goode, and the flower seller of the title, Owen Phillips.The story is set in the Essex market town of Abbeyleigh and opens on a snowy day in January with Jessie in a burger bar waiting for a blind date. Her husband, William, has left her for a younger woman, Chelsea Palmer (The Tart), who soon after falls pregnant. Jessie’s daughter, Hannah (18) and her friend Anne (married three times) have encouraged her to date again.
She meets Barry Sturridge, a farmer, who is nice enough but they both know that the chemistry is missing. However, as a result of being Barry’s Plus One at his cousin’s wedding, she meets the flower seller, Owen Phillips. Tall, slim, late twenties/early thirties with straight dark hair and deep blue eyes.
The first half of the book concerns the budding relationship between Jessie and Owen as they slowly fall in love. And in contrast, the hard-hitting negotiations between William and Jessie as she fights to keep her home, The Lodge, as William wants to sell it and divide the proceeds. To complicate matters, Jessie and William both work at the same law firm of Smith Mathers. She buys and sells houses and land and William is a criminal lawyer. Jessie is hoping to be promoted that year to salaried partner.
It begins to look as if Jessie will succeed in achieving her New Year’s resolutions: get a divorce, get a promotion, get a life.
Then, halfway through the novel, things change. William turns up at the office, drunk, and the senior partner rings Jessie, not Chelsea. Things are obviously not right with her husband and The Tart.
From then on, the plot skitters down a bumpy road, with twists and turns that leave you breathless. (For further details, please read the book!)
There are so many things I love about this novel. The depth of the characterization, the beautiful descriptions of Abbeysleigh, The Lodge, the Northey Hotel, the flowers, the weather. The complexities of the plot, executed so cleverly. But the thing I love the most is how the author describes to perfection the emotional heartache of a marriage break-up. The memories of the good times mixed in with the anger of betrayal, the yearning for everything now lost: the love, dreams and hope of their early days together.
This is a book that you think about long after you’ve read the last page. It stays with you and that, to me, is the sign of a good novel. Oh – and I cried at the end the second time around too.
The story is a bit far-fetched, though, and I felt that Jessie had more choices than she thought she had. Ultimately she struggled to choose between two men she loved but who had both severely betrayed her. She never seemed to consider dumping both of them and freeing herself for someone more worthy. However, that's the story and it's about what Jess did, not what I would have done.
If I had any complaint it's that all the main characters speak identically. There are no nuances to flesh out the personalities. It's good read, though, and I would choose this author again.
I would however recommend this book and will look forward to more from this author.