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on 4 April 2017
Very entertaining
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VINE VOICEon 13 December 2007
The Self-Preservation Society has one member: Jo, a thirty-something scaredy-cat who's so terrified of disaster striking that she never dares do anything even slightly risky. But then an accident happens and Jo starts to re-evaluate her life, forcing herself to analyse what exactly made her so scared in the first place - and if she can conquer her fears at last.
I loved reading this book - it's funny, moving, full of brilliant characters and really original. Highly recommended.
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on 20 June 2007
i really loved this book - it's got the lot: characters you care about, humour, heart, atmosphere, plot, pace - and probably lots of other stuff i've forgotten to mention. like the other reviewer, i've been carrying it around with me, sneaking a few more pages every chance i get. couldn't stop reading, but i didn't want it to end!
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VINE VOICEon 16 January 2009
When my husband bought me this book I was intriegued, although it looked like another 'chick lit' book it turned out to be much more. It's the story of Jo Morgan who grew up in the vicinity of Greenham Common and as a result of this and a rather fanatical teacher and his various armageddon-esque films has developed into a rather cautious young woman working (ironically!) in the local Government field of civil protection. Jo is surrounded by various other characters such as her live-in partner, fellow local Government employee Dennis, her unconventional parents and of course, the chick lit requisite, the tarty best friend. What sets this book apart though is the addition of octagenerian Wing Commander 'Frisky' La Belle whom she meets after suffering a traumatic accident which sets a chain of events in motion which will make her question her past and future.

I admit that I hugely enjoyed this book; it was beautifully written and the nod to the overwhelming fear of nuclear attack in the 1980s was sensitively written, as was the aftermath of Jo's accident. My only gripe and why it has only merited four stars was the slight predictability of the ending, mind you, don't let that put you off.
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on 20 June 2007
It's always a sign to me if I start carrying a book around and snatching quick reads in the loo, or disappearing off to bed early to catch a few more chapters. All good things end too quickly, and so it was with this book. A funny, sad, poignant story guaranteed to enchant.
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on 15 February 2010
An enjoyable romp of a book, about the most unlikely of subjects - a neurotic local government worker called Jo who has spent her entire life planning for disaster. When disaster finally strikes, it isn't the kind she's been expecting at all - and it forces her to reconsider her priorities in life and start taking the right kind of risks in order to get the life she really wants.

This is a very funny book, but quite apart from the humour, it's very moving and inspiring. Everyone has fears (though perhaps not as comically enormous as Jo's!) and this novel is about facing your fears - or perhaps about the perils of not facing your fears.

I have to say I'm not a great lover of chick lit (and this book comes with the requisite fluffy pastel cover) but although it is readable and aimed at women, it's much more than just chick lit. Kate Harrison is a brilliant author and, like the rest of her books, The Self-Preservation Society is engaging and readable but also filled with insights and emotional depth. Personally I didn't enjoy it quite as Old School Ties (nearly, but not quite). As others have said, the plot does develop quite slowly and it is more of an emotional journey than an action-filled one. I'd recommend it ias a great read, though, and will definitely be buying a copy for my best friend!
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on 18 March 2010
This book was a bland as the main character Jo. I can hardly believe anyone gave this book 5 stars. The plot was as predictable as reciting the alphabet. Jo's brain injury must have affected her judgement as her adoration of Luke who lacked any form of charisma was mind boggling. I kept hoping and anticipating that this book would surprise me and develop a vaguely interesting plot but on the contrary it ended with all the fizz of a damp firework. I say if you think you can stand to read each dreary chapter, buy a used copy for £0.01p just to see if you concur with my opinion.
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on 18 August 2007
I'm halfway through this book and I'm finding myself waking up to read it at obscure hours of the night ! I needed something to take me away from my post-Harry Potter blues (another 3 a.m. read), and this fits the bill. I love the school scenes as being the same age as Jo, I understand where she's coming from ! An engrossing read, I may come back with a 5 star rating when I've finished...watch this space !
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on 6 July 2015
The cover and the title made me think this book was a summery read about village fetes, jam and scones and chick-lit romance. It is actually VERY different. Different in lots of ways, too. But predictable in others, as I predicted who Jo would end up with.

Jo Morgan is our narrator, a late 30s Public Protection and Civil Defence Officer in the council offices of a small town, who has been scared of so many things since she was a teenager. We first meet her in 1982 at school when she is obsessed by the threat of nuclear war and how she, her family and the wider world will cope, not with the eventuality, but as she sees it, the certainty. She seems a little Adrian Mole-ish but without the endearing qualities; we don’t really learn a lot about her personality. I imagine her dressing like a pensioner, shopping at Edinburgh Wool Merchants, wearing fleeces with wolves on and being very, very bland. Everything is a threat to her and every risk has to be planned and prepared for. Teenage Jo should be out having fun with her friends, not obsessing over the Cold War and Greenham Common (which coincidentally is just up the road from where she grew up in Newbury). I felt she had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as her thoughts on preventing disaster are way too extreme.

The story is slow to get started as we learn about Jo’s life – her job, which sounds very staid and dull, and matches my opinion of her, and her boyfriend Dennis, who sounds about the same; they live in a bungalow, take no risks in life, though she is keen to point out that Dennis is a “tiger in the bedroom” – and the rest of the house as well. I think she is trying too hard to convince herself that he is “the one”. Interspersed with the present-day chapters are “flashbacks” to Jo’s early teenage years, which I really like as I can identify with them exactly. Rimmel make-up, St Michael carrier bags, the Human League, Shaders and Toners (I used those so often!), dads fancying Sally James from Tiswas and family Christmases. At Christmas 1981, she is wondering if it is cooler to fancy Andrew Ridgeley or George Michael; but I don’t think we had heard of either of them until autumn 1982! Same with the comment in the summer of 1982 that a reporter looks like “Sebastian from Brideshead Revisited” which was not screened until 1983. I did like the retro cultural references, though, imperfect as they were. Jo sounds old before her time and pretty boring, it has to be said; she only has one friend, Lorraine, and they seem polar opposites.

Things change when a cyclist cannons into Jo one night resulting in a serious head injury that puts her into a coma. The flashbacks to her teenage years are explained; they are not simply a plot device, but happen when she encounters particular scents and smells, and they explain her past and the reasons she becomes terrified and phobic of everything. The background of her dysfunctional family is slowly revealed, along with her younger brother’s illness resulting in him being overly spoiled, and the effect this had on her, causing her fears, lack of confidence and unwillingness to risk a thing.

After the accident things change for her in many ways. She goes to a “Monday Club” for rehabilitation and I was not looking forward to reading about this at all. I could smell the disinfectant and weak tea. Here, though, she meets the wonderful 85 year old former Air Vice-Marshal Frisky, who is full of life “despite not having much of it left” and determined to turn Jo into his project, to embrace life and all it has to offer. Frisky comes complete with grandson Luke who sounds quite hot (I’m thinking Poldark here) but monosyllabic and taciturn with it, though we find out more about Luke as we go along too. Frisky’s assignment is not an easy one.

Luke is a complete contrast to Dennis. I think Jo picked Dennis as a boyfriend firstly because he was convenient. They worked together; she didn’t even have to go out and socialise to meet him, for goodness sake! He doesn’t allow Jo to come out of her comfort zone. He is safe. She overdoes the comments about him being the love of her life and her soul mate because she is too scared to think there may be life without Dennis (even the name is boring, deliberate methinks) beyond the bungalow (that I imagined furnished totally in beige) and she is trying to convince herself that she has made the right choice.

One turning point is when Dennis takes Jo on a mini-break a few weeks after her accident. I thought at first Coventry was chosen as the location because (according to Jo’s first impressions) it is soulless and unispiring but we find out the real reason at the end. The whole weekend is shown to us as being dull and made of nothing. It is clear she is unsettled as she imagines she is with Luke when she is in bed with Dennis later on. This doesn’t bode well.

Gradually, Jo embraces change, and fear. She re-evaluates her life and makes decisions for herself. Those decisions lead to a better future. I thought that the ending was somewhat rushed though and I didn’t buy the ending for Dennis either. The two things that Jo decides to leave behind are the two things that actually scare me to death, too.

Loosely based on some of Kate’s real life experiences to an extent though I do hope she didn’t have a boyfriend as awful as Dennis. She is a very good writer. The cover was designed by an artist who did me a fabulous commission for my birthday, so even more to like!
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on 9 July 2007
I was totally convinced by Jo's fear of living and genuinely moved by her journey towards a richer, fuller life. The cover implied something lighter and frothier than the story I read. This is a seriously funny book and the author has a brilliant eye for the comic, but there is also a darker and more nourishing side to it, and the author manages to say a lot of wise things with the lightest of touches. An excellent, entertaining, moving read.
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