Finished it last night, been up until 2/3am for the past few nights. Couldn't put it down. I loved it. Everything about it. Including the cover.
I cried solidly from page 106 to the end of the chapter, then from about 160 to the end of the book.
It takes skill to invent a concept like Lucas, stick it in like a knife, and then keep on twisting it all the way to the end. Exquisitely painful. You sort of enjoy the torture, because it drives home your humanity.
I know, I'm gushing. I really am. It came in the Complete Luke Bitmead collection I bought a while back. Won the 2010 bursary as well as the Yeovil Literary Prize. It's extremely easy to see why.
Philippa Smith is in her forties and has a beautiful newborn baby girl. She also has no husband, and nowhere to turn. So she turns to the only place she knows: the beginning.
Retracing her life, she confronts the daily obstacles that shaped her very existence. From the tragic events of her childhood abandonment, to the astonishing accomplishments of those close to her, Philippa learns of the sacrifices others chose to make, and the outcome of buried secrets.
Philippa discovers a celebration of life, love, and the Golden era of television. A reflection of everyday people, in not so everyday situations.
I may only have been born halfway through this book, but there was so much I recognised that made me smile. I, too, was of a generation with Smash Hits, Hubba Bubba, the cuddly toy, and psychedelic orange squash. My smile was even wider when she mentioned liquorish rizlas.
It spoke of, and therefore evoked, so many memories of my own childhood. An era. Events: where I was when I heard Diana was dead; strangers sobbing on my shoulder; a sea of flowers. It summoned first loves, losses, realisations - an incredible achievement to chronicle a life from beginning to middle with such astounding emotive accuracy.
As another review mentions:
The story speeds up quite a bit when Philippa is an adult. I suppose that reflects our way of remembering our lives – early childhood experiences can seem so visceral, whereas later events often merge together.
Absolutely. This didn't escape me either, and added to the reality of the piece. The whole construct was technically superb, from the chapter titles to the interim breaks, the hooks, teasers, retrospective aha!s and the progression of time. I aspire to write this well.
The only problem now is what to follow that with?