Top critical review
A good read
on 25 July 2014
Alice is really devastated to lose her job, and decides it might be the ideal time to move away from London, and buy a small cottage on the coast in Devon. She rents out her London flat to her colleague Danny, who she befriends before she leaves, and buys a house at auction, without seeing it first. However, Alice is in for a shock when she visits after purchasing it, and finding out it's a dump - crammed full of the items of a hoarder, with the most hideous stench, and overgrown garden to boot. Alice rents a room in a local guesthouse while she renovates her new home, and makes some new friends... with rather a lot of them called Danny. There's Danny, the local landowner (although best known as Daniel), Danny the baby of the lady next door, Danny the dog... Danny's appear to be everywhere in Alice's life - is it a sign?!
As you can see, as well as Alice, the majority of the other characters in this book are called Danny. Luckily, I didn't find it too confusing because they are obviously all very different, especially the baby and the dog, and it's not something I have read before in any book, so I liked that it was a unique idea. The character of Alice was very likeable, you could see why she wanted to move out of London for a break, the town she moves to in Devon sounds idyllic, a real tight community and I could see why she wanted to stay there. The descriptions of the house she buys are perfect - they really highlight the state that the house is in; the junk, the grime, the smell - all of it comes to life in the writing and you can't help but think Alice should running as far away from the house as she could get. I liked all the different things going on in the book too - I was never bored, and Alice always had something fun on the go - even the sadder scenes were written with care, and done really well.
The relationships that Alice forms in the book are good too, especially with 'London Danny', who we learn later to be 'windsurfer Danny' too - you do have to concentrate to keep an eye on who is who! I liked how easily Alice made friends, from Alice to the lady living next door, and her landlady too. Alice seems like someone who is easy to befriend and get to know. While the characters were enjoyable to read about, it was their dialogue that really let the book down for me. All of the conversations in the book felt really wooden to me, not at all like you'd expect conversation to flow in real life, and I found it a bit cringey to read at times. I just felt it wasn't a true reflection of real people's chats like it usually is when I read a book, and it was hard work for me. It's a shame, as the story was a great idea, but it was massively let-down by this aspect of the book for me.
I found this to be a fairly enjoyable read, the story was a unique idea, something that actually worked quite well in the book, but there were elements of it which left me wanting to knock a few stars off. For me, conversation/dialogue in a novel are really important, they are often my favourite parts of a book. When they aren't done properly, it can spoil the other parts of the book, and this was the case for me. I'm sure it's something that can be worked on, because the rest of the book flowed well and was enjoyable to read, it's just something for me that I couldn't get past. A beautiful setting, some really good descriptive writing and characters that you can invest in and care about - the bare bones are there to provide a great backbone to the story, and if the dialogue were better, it would have been a pretty brilliant read!