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Saturday, 3 September 2011

The Empty Nesters by Nina Bell

Clover Jones and Laura Dangerfield have been best friends since their children were born. Along with Clover's stylish, powerful friend, Alice, they share holidays, sleepovers, school runs and childcare. They're like one big family. But all families have their secrets. When the children leave home, Clover and Laura's lives and marriages change forever, and the old rules on love and loyalty no longer apply. And when Alice decides she wants what they've got, Clover and Laura have to find out who they really are. Without the children, can their marriages - and friendship - survive?

I found this book difficult to get into. THe book starts with a very busy chapter, with many children and adults introduced and I was initially confused as to the relationships between them. However, as I read on, I was able to work out families. The first chapter is the last day of term for the children:Holly; Jamie and Lola, and the start of the holidays. The three families annually take a holiday together, this year it being to Bordeaux, France.

I initially found it difficult to relate to the characters; with the children being around 18 years old and leaving school, and their parents being around 45-50. I am alot younger than this and my chidlren are still in primary school, a levels and university seem to be a long way in the future (although i am sure it will arrive very quickly). However, the further into the book, and the more I read about each character led me to relate to them more. The female in each family: Clover; Laura and Alice each have very different characteristics and all have their own journeys through the book. 

I thought that Clover was going to be the main character throughout the book. Both Laura and Alice seem to talked to her about problems and will ask her advice or opinion, calling upon her for favours etc. She appeared to live for her family, ensuring they all had everything for school, university or work and would do anything for anyone. However, further into the book, once the children were at university and her husband was constantly working, she made the decision to return to work, not doing a 'conventional' job but becoming a decorator, working for a friend on the bottom rung of the ladder which her husband did not agree with. 

Laura was very quiet at the start of the book, agreeing and going along with Clover's ideas, plans, etc. However, there is a turning point in the book, first when she is lying in a darkened room in the villa by a male, and they begin an affair, I had my ideas who this man was but when I got to the end of the book and the man's identity was revealed, I was shocked! Also, sadly, Laura's husband, Tim, was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. After the diagnosis I thought that Laura became a new woman, having the freedom to do what she wanted while Tim was receiving treatment, as Tim have made friends with others having treatment at the same time, she was able to meet her fancy man, who made her realise she needed support to get through Tim's illness. A visit to a psychotherapist made her realise she had more to offer and gave her a reason and purpose for her future, with possible career development.

The third female, Alice, is a very different character. A high flying business woman, who knows what she wants, and how she will get it. A single mum to Lola, who does not know her biological father, and spent many a school evening at Clover's while her mother is around the world doing business deals. She seems to think that there will be others around to pick up Lola and look after her etc while she goes away, but does not appreciate her friends for all they do for her. After the school year has finished she appears to push her friends away and when Lola discovers her biological father's identity, Alice blames everyone else for the upset rather than discuss the subject with Lola.  

As I have already stated, I did find it hard to get into the book and also to relate to the characters as they were older than me and their children at a different stage in their lives to my children. However, when I had got past these initial difficulties, I did enjoy the book. I warmed to Laura and Clover, I thought that Laura's story was very well written and I would imagine that her story is one played out by many women. Clover always appeared to be in control and the organiser but when her children left home she felt lonely and not needed. Her career change was a brave one but she found something she enjoyed and was good at and turned it  into a new career.

The book was well written and I liked Nina's storytelling. It was a book that once I had worked out the families etc was easy to pick up and put down, a great summer read or one to loose yourself in on a Sunday afternoon. I will be looking out for Nina's previous books to read soon.

Thank you to Sphere and Little Brown for sending me the book to review.

1 comment:

  1. I too find it hard going when there's a large cast of characters.