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on 1 September 2011
The Empty Nesters is a savvy look at what happens to parents when their children depart from the family home and they are left to reinvent life without them. It is observant, enjoyable, the characters are well drawn and the pace doesn't flag. I was certainly kept guessing until the end. So many children now go to university and we looked at this through the eyes of the mothers, fathers AND the children. As a lot of people have their children a bit later in life these days, this empty nest syndrome can often arrive at the same time as a mid life crisis and I liked the way that each of the parents behaved in such different ways. Especially the dads! I think a lot of children get pressured into going to uni and the reaction of the children seemed really true to life. There were lots of twists and turns and Nina Bell certainly delivered a cracking narrative. I liked this book as much as Sisters-in-Law, my favourite Nina Bell book to date.
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As usual, Bell has delivered on her dramatic family dramas and although I felt this one was a bit of a slow burner at first, I soon found myself engrossed in it and not wanting to put it down! What I really liked about this book was how the character's enabled you to really get involved in their lives and see what was going on between not only the group of parents, but the children too. Clover, Laura and Alice are the main three adult females in the book and all flawed in their own ways. Clover tries to rescue people too much, Laura is in a rut with her marriage and doing something she knows is awfully wrong, and Alice is being a bit too over-bearing with her daughter Lola, and also a big ignorant of what Clover is doing for her as a friend. I really disliked Alice, and couldn't find anything I liked about her at all - she's your worst nightmare of a friend and parent to be honest! On the other hand, I felt Clover and Laura were written as really good parents, and as a mum myself I could understand Laura's pain in letting her only child go away from her, I felt Bell really captured her pain.

The male characters are also very important in the book. We have Tim, Laura's husband who is about to go through a major period in his life which will make or break his marriage, George, Clover's husband who is being a bit secretive and leading Clover to be a bit suspicious about his activities and Duncan, a single dad who is new to the group. I felt Bell wrote her male characters to be just as important as the female ones in some respects, which is a nice thing in this genre since male characters sometimes take the backseat. I really enjoyed reading Tim's story, yes it isn't particularly nice to read about but I felt it was well covered and the reactions of both Tim and Laura to the issue were very realistic. I actually felt realism was felt throughout the book regarding the characters, their emotions and reactions to things that happened and that made it a very enjoyable read.

Although the adult characters in this book were much older than me, probably around double my age actually, I didn't find it hard to relate to the book at all, and you'll find this one you'll relate to very easily if you are a parent! My son is only 5 yet I dread the day he goes off to University, and so I felt I was really able to relate to Laura in this instance when I was reading. The younger characters were also very well written, although they didn't appear too frequently in the book. I felt Bell's writing was very easy to read and enjoy, and the third person narrative worked well for the multiple characters being used in the book. Her descriptions of not only people and feelings, but places, surroundings and the like allow the book to come to life in your head as you are reading. I did find the start a little slow if I'm honest, which is what knocked the book down from a 5 star to a 4 star, but I persevered and I am glad I did as I would have missed out on a really great book. I very much enjoyed reading it, and loved the revelations that are revealed as the book progressed, one involving Laura that I never saw coming at all until it was revealed! If you love books about families or dramas, then you are going to love The Empty Nesters, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anyone.
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on 13 September 2011
Family dramas are some of my favourite novels to read and when I first heard about Nina Bell's latest novel The Empty Nesters, I just knew this would be the novel for me. I have to admit that I have not read any of Nina's previous novels, although I have heard great things about them all, however I was hooked from the first page and could not put this novel down.

Clover and Laura have been best friends for years, and along with Alice, they share holiday's, sleepovers, school runs, child care and lots of gossip. They are more like a family than just friends. All families, however, have their secrets, and for these ladies it is no different. Once their children leave home and head to university, they all find that their lives and marriages change forever and the old rules on friendship and love no longer seem to apply. When Alice decides that she wants the lives that Clover and Laura have, all the ladies have to find out who they really are and exactly what they want from their lives. Without the children, can they marriages and friendships survive?

Before reading The Empty Nesters, I was a little worried that I would be unable to relate to the characters, as they are all in their forties and fifties with children leaving for university. Once I started reading, however, all my worries were put aside as the characters are actually very relatable. Even though I have very little in common with Clover and Laura I found that they were really likable characters. I felt that I was drawn into their lives, and the lives of their children without any hesitation. Nina Bell is really able to capture the emotions of these women as they try to figure out their lives once their children are leaving for college. I was especially able to feel Laura's pain throughout everything that she goes through within the novel. I really felt for all these characters and was routing for their happy ending. The storyline line itself flows well, with little twists and turns thrown in, making the plot exciting. Many times throughout the novel I was sure I had figured out why certain characters were keeping secrets and what those secrets were, only to be surprised in the next chapter when it turned out to be something entirely different. I loved how the reader is kept in suspense, which made me want to keep reading to find out exactly what happens. I was able to really delve straight into the novel from the beginning and I really enjoy reading about the holiday the families take to France. This resonated well with me, as when I was younger, myself and my extended family took very similar vacations together. I also enjoyed reading about the male characters, George and Tim within the novel. I may not have liked them as people very much but they were entertaining characters who really contributed to the development of the story.

I only wish that Nina Bell had added some narrative from Alice's point of view. I really enjoyed that she wrote from Laura and Clover's point of view, therefore showing exactly how they felt and what they were thinking but I did not get to know Alice very well throughout the novel. Perhaps if there had been some narrative from Alice I would have got to know her character better and understood why she acts the way that she does.

Nina Bell has a real talent for penning intriguing, real and emotional family dramas that really engage the reader. With The Empty Nesters, she has succeeded with this style of writing yet again. I will be finding all Nina Bell's previous novels and devouring them in the same way that I did The Empty Nesters. I cannot wait to read more from this talented and engaging writer. I really enjoyed this novel and would not hesitate to recommend The Empty Nesters to anyone looking for family drama infused with chick lit.

Chick Litaholic
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on 3 September 2011
The back cover says Nina Bell: fiction that gets under the skin of family dynamics.
How true!

The story is set around three families.

Clover and George Jones and their children Ben and Holly - They are alone now for the first time in a long time, can they survive?

Tim and Laura Dangerfield and their son Jamie - Interesting reading about Laura's feelings when times got tough for Tim.

Alice and her daughter Lola - Single-parent, successful business woman, has it all, or does she?

The dynamics of the group and character traits were clearly laid out early on in the story so I could settle into the storyline about how the children flying the nest would change these people's lives.

The storyline flowed and the engaging dialogue between the characters, throughout, not only made me want to join in discussions but kept me changing my mind about who was up to what, with who, and why. I enjoyed the way characters would chat and analyse each other.

Secrets were being kept, trust was being tested, and many things were not being said between friends and husbands. It is not always what you do say but what you don't say that matters in a friendship or relationship.

It is very difficult to say how I felt about the characters in this book without giving away too much of the story. There were characters I was not keen on during the story, but by the end of the book I began to understand why they acted they way they did.

This is my first encounter with Nina Bell's writing and I loved it. I want more.

This novel gave me a great big hug but also made me do a little self-evaluation. Very therapeutic read.

5 out of 5 for me!
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on 29 September 2011
Sorry but can't get into this one...too many characters introduced all at once..struggled with it for a few days and gave up...will try again later...I am disappointed as I have enjoyed all the Nina Bell books I have read before..without exception.
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on 19 November 2011
I agree with a previous reviewer that Nina Bell gets better and better. I felt that this really was the best she's written so far and look forward to many more from her, especially as each book has managed to look at a different facet of family life. Having been an "empty nester" myself - though I must say I don't think I agonised over it quite as much as the group of parents in this novel - I do know that feeling of "what do we do now?". I thought all the characters well-rounded and believable, perhaps with the exception of Alice, who was just so unlikeable it was hard to see how she had ever really become part of the group. But Nina Bell avoided the temptation to give her a real come-uppance at the end of the novel - which we were probably all looking forward to! - and instead gave a more realistic shrug of the shoulders at Alice's antics. Far more what would happen in real life. A lovely book - I was sorry to finish it.
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on 2 November 2011
When their children start university, Clover and Laura are forced to take stock of their lives and how they see themselves. The book is about the journey taken by them and their family members and friends who are in the same situation. The characters are strongly drawn and well-observed, and are all very believable. We see both their good and bad points as we learn about their doubts and insecurities. There are touches of wicked humour in the portrayal of some of the minor characters, particularly one who is seen mostly through his blog, with spot-on blog entries. The story carries the reader along at a great pace, but also allows you to stop and appreciate particularly well-written passages. There are several instances where the imagery is so apt and so well-conceived that it lingers with you as you read on. The Empty Nesters is altogether a very good read, absorbing the reader into the lives and dilemmas of the characters.
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on 18 August 2015
This is the first Nina Bell book I've read, and it certainly won't be the last. The Empty Nesters follows the fortunes of several couples once their children have been despatched to university, and the characters are vividly and convincingly depicted. The story whisked me along through their first year with empty nests, through several twists and turns (several of which I certainly didn't see coming) to a satisfying conclusion. I'm sure I'm not the only one who smiled with rueful recognition at some of the situations, and wiped away a tear at others. Thoroughly enjoyable.
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on 28 September 2011
Nina Bell immediately draws you in to The Empty Nesters - but all is not what is seems. Characters are perceptively defined as the parents face up to their own futures and identities now that their children have left the nest. Change is afoot for everyone as old friendships and marriages unravel and new alliances are made. A compelling read - words of advice, humour and wisdom abound!
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on 26 September 2011
I loved The Empty Nesters. I had to keep turning the pages to find out how the various family dramas would play out. I would recommend it to anyone who is approaching or has experienced the empty nest stage. But not just parents - my own 23 year old daughter (just post university) also loved it.
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