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This was an audiobook from Audible, which I listened to over a number of runs during one week. It is narrated by Juanita McMahon, who did a great job overall. There were seven main characters, and she did give voice to them all.

The story concerns three couples – Chris and Beth, Tony and Sarah, and Marie and Duncan. The women have been friends for years, and the men are therefore friends by default, and all six of them meet up once a month at each other’s houses, for a dinner party. Then one night, Chris invites his friend Simon along; Simon is gorgeous – and heartbroken because his wife has just left him for another man.

Having another person in the mix soon changes up the dynamic of the group, as the men feel their territory threatened (with the exception of Chris) and the women are intrigued by the new face.

Throughout the year and the various dinner parties, Simon’s role in their lives means new alliances and new animosities are forged and created and eventually everything culminates in one unforgettable dinner party at his house…

On paper, there is a lot going for this book, and I would say I enjoyed it – for the most part. For the first 45 minutes I had severe doubts though, and considered giving up on it. Repetition can be quite funny, but at times throughout the book, and especially in the first part, it seemed as though Bloom had had some kind of bet to see how many times she could shoehorn a particular word in. In the first part for example, we see just how obsessed with dips Chris is. He loves his dips, and we are hit over the head with this fact as the word dips is trotted out too many times to count. Later on the same thing happens when Beth laments that people find her cuddly. How many times do we need to hear the word cuddly to realise that it annoys her? (It annoyed me too!)

The characters are a mish-mash, and for the most part, not particularly likeable. Chris is so relentlessly cheerful, but yet completely oblivious to what is going on around him (and his failure to pick up on social cues is annoying) that he just comes across as shallow and stupid. I did love him for one scene though, which I won’t reveals here as it would be a potential spoiler.

Tony is pompous and chauvinistic and goodness knows why Sarah put up with him!

Marie is the worst of all. Vacuous, self-absorbed, vain and insensitive, I couldn’t stand her and was amazed that she had managed to find two friends and a nice man who wanted to marry her (I liked Duncan most of all).

What I would say is that the writing flowed well, and it was an undemanding listen/read. I’d give it a  middling score which is to say that I didn’t think it was brilliant, but it kept me entertained enough while I pounded the streets.

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Emma George has a job in TV, which is less exciting than it sounds, and a long term boyfriend Ned, who is less reliable than a boyfriend should be. And then she finds herself accidentally pregnant in the same week that she loses her job, and breaks up with Ned.

She is lucky enough to inherit a cottage and find temporary work, and an accidental lodger, but she still realises that soon she is going to be wholly responsible for another person, and things are going to have to change…

SPOILERS CONTAINED BELOW!!

I listened to the audiobook of this novel, narrated by Rosie Jones. I would have to say that the narration was excellent; unfortunately that’s the only thing that I *can* say was excellent. My main issue is that clearly the reader/listener is supposed to identify with Emma and root for her, and…well, she is just a terribly selfish, judgemental and spiteful human being. Horrible human beings can make for interesting main characters but the reader/listener is supposed to be well aware that they are horrible characters; we are not supposed to be expected to support their behaviour!

This started out quite amusing in parts, but what ruined it for me was when Emma constantly fat-shamed another character. Martha’s size and eating habits were completely irrelevant to the story, yet literally every sentence that mentioned her (and there were a LOT) made an unkind reference to the character’s weight. Furthermore, when Martha correctly chastised Emma for not doing her job properly, Emma videoed Martha after she had had sex with someone, and then blackmailed her with the footage top stop Martha reporting Emma’s behaviour. And we were supposed to think this was hilarious!

Additionally, Ned was just the most feckless and unreliable boyfriend, who stole Emma’s money after sponging off her for years, had not contributed any money towards rent or living costs, and preferred dreaming up ultimately unsuccessful get-rich-schemes with his mate. When one such scheme accidentally works out, all of a sudden Ned is painted as a wonderful character and an example to us all not to give up on your dreams.

I listened to the end, because I was too far in to give up before I realised what a truly selfish character Emma was and because of the narration. However, although I would certainly listen to more books narrated by Rosie Jones, I won’t be checking out any more books written by this author.

 

 

 

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