Published : Atlantic Books
7 January 2015
Copy : Paperback - Received signed copy from author
Twelve - year - old Harper Richardson's parents are divorced. Her mum got custody of her, the mini and five hundred tins of baked beans. Her dad got a mouldering cottage in a midlands backwater village and default membership of The Lone Rangers single parents' club. Harper got questionable dress sense, a zest for life, two gerbils, her Chambers dictionary - and the responsibility of fixing her parents broken hearts...
Set against a backdrop of high hairdos and higher interest rates, pop music, puberty, divorce and decrepitude, What a Way To Go is a warm, wise and witty tale of one girl tackling the business of growing up while those around her try not to fall apart.
The Very Pink Notebook Review
I didn't know what to expect from this book, but I was looking forward to reading it and taking a little break from psychological thrillers. I wasn't to be disappointed, I found it to be a gentle, beautifully written story, with really likable and funny characters.
The reader is told the story through the eyes of the eyes of twelve-year-old Harper, who I adored. Julia has managed to bring to life a real character here - capturing perfectly a 1980's 'nearly' teenager. There was no cartoon-like mannerisms to her, everything Harper says and does I could really relate to someone of her age thinking and believing. Her personal little asides made me laugh out loud, quite literally, probably more so because I would have been about her age when the novel is set, 1988, so many of the things she mentions, longs for, does I was mentioning, longing for or doing.
I loved how 'ordinary' the other characters were and what they were doing too. The story covers normal, everyday life, very realistic (ok - so maybe I personally have never known anyone to buy their coffin, put shelves in and use it as a book case until they need it - but, that isn't to say it doesn't happen!) and all of it a nostalgic nod to the grand old 1980's when chain smoking indoors was quite accepted, booze runs to France were the highlight of the year and shell suits were cool, although ridiculously flammable.
Although there are no big showdowns, explosions or highly gripping cliff-hangers, what this book is full of is emotion. Harper is highly sensitive to the feelings of everyone around her and goes to great lengths to protect others, from her parents to the elderly neighbour in the village. This is mostly done quite humorously, after all a lot of people cope with stress this way, but the plot is piqued with one or two sad and serious issues and as much as I did laugh with this book I did also shed a tear (or two hundred) towards the end and that was when I knew how involved with the book and its characters I was.
I can only imagine this book was a real joy for Julia Forster to write and I hope, one day, we might see how Harper is doing as a grown up...
I give this book a thoroughly well deserved