Wednesday, 23 November 2011
The Secret of Happy Ever After by Lucy Dillon
When story-lover Anna takes over Longhampton's bookshop, it's her dream come true. And not just because it gets her away from her three rowdy stepchildren and their hyperactive Dalmatian. Unpacking boxes filled with childhood classics, Anna can't shake the feeling that maybe her own fairytale ending isn't all that she'd hoped for. But, as the stories of love, adventure, secret gardens, lost dogs, wicked witches and giant peaches breathe new life into the neglected shop, Anna and her customers get swept up in the magic too. Even Anna's best friend Michelle - who categorically doesn't believe in true love and handsome princes - isn't immune. But when secrets from Michelle's own childhood come back to haunt her, and disaster threatens Anna's home, will the wisdom and charm of the stories in the bookshop help the two friends - and those they love - find their own happy ever afters?
I am a great fan of Lucy Dillon, have loved her previous books and have been waiting for her new release for ages............... and I was not disappointed!
Dillon again takes us back to Longhampton but this time we meet Michelle, a single lady who has recently left her overpowering husband and moved to Longhampton where she buys the old fishmonger's and sets up her new shop 'Home Sweet Home'. Very early in her new life in the village, she meets Anna - a librarian who has recently lost her job due to budget cuts, married and step mother to three girls, who spend most of their time with their mother and visit their father and Anna regularly - they also have a dalmatian called Pongo.
There are many themes covered within the book: Michelle is rebuilding her life, developing her independence, enjoying being accountable to no one, and building her own business, expanding it when the oppurtunity arises and working out what she wants in life - especially her personal life. Anna is also a very interesting character - a stepmother to three girls, who she cares for, however when they come to live with her and her husband (their father) on a more permanent basis, Anna finds this difficult and is unsure on her stepmother boundaries. It was, however, nice to see how Anna's feelings towards the firsts develops throuhgout the book, something which must be very complicated to work through but also, as Anna finds, very rewarding. Anna also has to cope with her want for a baby - something her husband promised when they married but has now changed his mind, Anna finds this very difficult to deal with.
I found myself emphasising with Anna. Like Anna Iwas bought up with books and I have done teh same with my two children, I am often left wondering why adult do not share books with their children at a young age or read bedtime stories to them. I would love to have a job like Anna's,. where it is possible to recommend books, talk about books and meet authors etc at regualr meetings. I have a waterstones and whsmiths in Worcester to buy books from - these stores are inpersonal, and although there are two dedicated charity book shops, neiither of them are welcoming and informative as the book shop Anna magages for Michelle. I really think a shop like hers in every town would definitely increase the love of reading again - I want to visit Longhampton! Anna is very patient about books and tries to spread the love to everyone she meets - some more successfully than others.
Michelle is another strong woman - however there are secrets from her past that aren't revealled until the end of the book. I found her relationship with Rory lovely, it started off very frostily but Rory slowly gained her trust and proved he cared for her. I was intrigued by Michelle - she was very headstrong and had a strong business mind, which she was determined to use to get the best out of business space.
The book is a lovely story, one which is perfect for a cold winter evening to loose yourself in. As with Dillon's previous books, there are dogs included within the story. They do not take over the book at all, Tavis is a big part of RRory and Michelle's story and Pongo is someone who Anna can leave the house with, to get away from the family difficulties. The story is chicklit but not mushy love stories, it is real life stories told in a very clever way - a book which will give hope to women who have strong views about what they want to do with their lives but also reminds us to consider others views and accept the support they offer.
This is a great book and I recommend it all - if you haven't tried one of Lucy Dillon's books before, make this one your first, you won't be disappointed.