Top critical review
Over-long and boring with unlikeable characters.
on 16 May 2016
I've given this two stars, rather than one, as there was a mystery involved, so I kept skim-reading (three or four words from each page) until I found the answer. I don't waste time on poor literature - why do people insist on finishing awful novels 'because they never leave a book unfinished'? - but one way or another I did make it to the end, hence two stars.
Most of it was dire. The characters were unlikeable, save perhaps for the handsome, gay guy called Orlando, who only played a very small role. I mean really unlikeable, people you wouldn't want in your life. The characterization was so poor that you couldn't know anyone. There was someone called Sam. I kept forgetting if it was a man or a woman. She was particularly unpleasant and I couldn't tell you why she was there at all.
So the story basically runs like this: Laura earns a poor living hand-making gold charms; she lives with Jack, and has one friend, who tries, unpaid, to help her with her business. Laura appears to want to be invisible, wearing only Jack's cast off clothes and is even described somewhere as having grey hair. One day Rob Blake, handsome but objectionable, walks into her studio and demands that she stops making all commissions and concentrates on making a charm necklace for the wife he adores. Laura refuses, but later changes her mind for financial reasons, and agrees to make charms representing seven relationships with people from his wife's past or present, including a previous love interest(?!). So, although she has no time to spare to get everything made by the deadline, she has to drive around interviewing people and then agrees to go on a short skiing trip where she can meet the others. She goes ostensibly as Orlando's plus one, which no-one seems to find strange.
Always in the background is this hint of a former life. There is even some sort of unexplained fit or seizure. On the skiing trip, it transpires that this grey, dull woman is something of a skiing ace, and is happy to jump from helicopters and go snowboarding or whatever, doing everything exceptionally well, and punching the air in excitement. One of the men makes a beeline for her, despite his fiancee being present. She is lent an evening dress, has her hair and make-up done and, voila! Cinderella moment!
The author appears to be trying to insert humour, and there is a lot of giggling (yes, giggling!) amongst the ladies, but it isn't funny. At times it's cringe-worthy. Laura has a habit of not locking bedroom or bathroom doors, so obviously people walk in at inconvenient moments. In one scene, she is taking a bath in someone else's house, a small child walks in declaring she needs "a pooh" (direct quote) and proceeds to perform, with mother coming in and wiping bottom, etc. Seriously! I'm embarrassed simply commenting on it.
And it was boring. So much stuff irrelevant to the story! And people paying thousands of pounds for charms? Really? I thought the fad with charms had died out in the sixties and seventies, and they were boring even then.
The book seems to go on and on, and would have been much improved if it had been literally half its length. Or a third. The mystery, when it's finally solved, was actually quite interesting, Laura's former life is explained and what you expect by this time to happen does happen.
I would only recommend this if you have time to waste and can't find anything else to read.