*Just a gentle note, this review may contain small spoilers you might want to avoid*
I’ve been wanting to read this book for a long time. There’s been a lot of raving reviews and hype on social media. But then I saw the cover for the gorgeous paperback and I knew then that would be my chance to read it. And isn’t it just gorgeous? The colours, the graphic, the font… so, anyway, what’s it all about? This is what the blurb says:
Jess and her ten-year-old son William set off to spend the summer at Chateau de Roussignol, deep in the undulating hills and lush vineyards of the Dordogne. There, her ex-boyfriend Adam runs an exquisite hotel in a restored castle and has had little to do with his son’s upbringing.
But Jess is in France for a more urgent reason than a holiday: she’s fulfilling the wishes of her mother who, in the late stage of a neurodegenerative disease, is determined that William needs his father in his life. Over one heady, sun-drenched summer, bridges are built and secrets are uncovered, but there is one truth that nobody – especially William – must discover.
Sounds good, right? I loved and adored this book so much. There are so much I loved about this book. One of them being that the chapters are very short (I hate long chapters, I lose interest and the story just gets dragged out) but these chapters are short, snappy and the pace never falls. With them being so short, I devoured this book in four days straight. It’s a book that you can read in one-sitting, especially on the sun lounger on your holibobs! But, it’s just as wonderful in South Wales with the pouring rain and thumping thunder.
I loved the setting of the story, it’s so vivid it feels as if it’s a character all on it’s own. There are some beautifully written passages about the hotel, the roaming hills, the cottages, the lakes, the forest where they walk; you are right there with them, wherever you are, it’s so vivid and clear. I’ve been reading An Italian Summer by Fanny Blake (more on that Monday!), and both have made me want to run away and go on holiday…
One of the main reasons why I loved this book is that it was real. I know that sounds stupid, but it’s true. You know these characters, this can happen to anyone and the character of Jess, our main protagonist, is well-written and you can see her, hear her straight away, bouncing off the page. I have a thing where I’m not a massive fan of the main characters and like and warm to the secondary characters more, but that wasn’t the case here. Jess is real, her voice is so authentic and you feel for her. I think this is because it’s not over-the-top, not one inch of this book. It’s rooted in reality and is written with such poignancy and care.
And that’s more than true when it comes to Jess’ mother’s neurodegenerative disease, Huntington’s Disease. There were moments in the book where I did well up and found it incredibly moving. Right from the start, Jess’ mother was my favourite character. The writing of the disease is poignant and not sensationalist in the least. I didn’t know much about it at all, to be honest, so I learned a lot from this book too. The writing is so uplifting and joyous, for example:
‘I’m living with it… there’s a difference. I’m living life as though every day is my last. And until things really tough that’s what I intend to do. Think about all the good around me and not what lies ahead. Do all the things I enjoy, just for the hell of it. I’m going to swim in the sea. Bake cakes. Do more dancing.’
There is also a great array of characters. William is a wonderful character with lines that will make you howl out with laughter. Adam… well, he’s a bit of a dick, but there’s something to like, or love, about him. And then there’s Jess’ friends: Becky (and her family) and Natasha. As I’ve said already, the writing is realistic, rooted in reality and that’s more clear with these characters. I enjoyed reading the scenes between Becky, Jess and Natasha. They all showed different sides and views of being a woman, in relationships and motherhood. I wanted to read more about them! I also, really enjoyed the different sides and attitudes to the children. Not everyone is the same, some children enjoy kicking a football, some enjoy going for long walks amongst the caves, and some prefer flicking through a magazine.
There’s so much more to discuss with this book but for now, I think it’s time for you to grab a copy and be lost in this wonderful story. I really enjoyed the flashbacks of Jess’ childhood where we saw more of her mother and father. There’s been comparisons to Me Before You and yes, there’s similarities, but they are both different too. But if you loved Me Before You, I’m sure you will love and love this book. It’s also being made into a movie! And after watching an episode of Coronation Street and seeing Eva, I couldn’t get her out of my mind when reading Jess and her story…
This is more than a love story. This is a family drama, a rom-com… it’s a story about how not letting something so tragic define you. It’s a book that will make you smile, make you weep, make you fall in awe of the characters and story, but most of all, it will make you look at your loved ones with love, and for you not to take your life for granted. Not one single day. As Jess says herself:
‘Whatever life might throw at me, right now, there’s this: I’m alive.’
I think this book is going to be talked about a lot in the coming weeks, especially as it’s part of Richard and Judy’s bookclub with WhSmith (with some great additional material from Catherine Isaac about her inspiration for the book, a Q&A, etc). Oh, and it’s half price at the moment! So, what are you waiting for? Go and be lost in this beautiful story with it’s wonderful array of characters and live your life to the fullest.
Have you read You Me Everything yet? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!