Monday, 26 September 2011

Book Review: Seven Days One Summer, by Kate Morris

Jen is a photographer, long-term girlfriend and mummy who feels slightly frustrated and underwhelmed by life when the story starts. She thinks back to pre-baby days when her career was on a high and life was more spontaneous. She associates those days with Sam, an ex-love, who calls her out of the blue on her birthday.

Sam invites Jen to spend a week in his father’s villa in Tuscany, with her man, Marcus, and son, Alfie, and various other friends of Sam’s. Some are known to Jen, others she has not met. Jen and Marcus have fallen into a bit of a rut and Jen hopes this could be the very thing they need to revive their relationship.

Once in Italy, the sun shines, wine flows and suspicions are aroused. Each member of the group deals with their own issues, some better than others. Trying to put up with annoyances from others in the party, everyone does their best to enjoy their time at the villa. For Jen, there is something not quite right about Jill, the housekeeper, but she tries to put it to one side for the sake of the holiday.

I found the book compelling; I didn’t want to put it down until I discovered the climax that Morris was building towards from the start. Morris writes beautifully. Her attention to detail is the key to this book’s success. She creates a vivid picture, but includes the tiny observations that really bring it all to life; I could smell the lavender in the heat of the Italian summer, and I could hear the cicadas on the terrace.

I did find the ending a little frustrating, not for the twist, but because the book had been building towards it for so long and going into great detail that I felt it was rather abrupt and over too quickly. There was more I wanted to know about the background and how the story came about, and more details about how the characters responded thereafter.
Jen is a very recognisable character and I’m sure readers of the novel will see many aspects of their own lives cropping up in Jen’s story. She is easy to relate to, and Morris’s other characters are also very believable.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book and it reinforced the idea that there are friends you should go on holiday with, and friends you most definitely should not! Relationships do not always transport well. Sometimes, being away is exactly what is needed to pour a little clarity on things, as Jen and others discover. The story throws up many questions about how people gel together as a group and analyses the dynamics well. I found myself cringing on behalf of some characters at the behaviour of others!
The book was most definitely a great read and I recommend it to anyone wanting to hang on to the last vestiges of summer, or who has ever been niggled by people they have been away with.

This is Kate Morris’s third novel.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Writing Workshop - Time

Back-to-work Dread ought to be a recognised condition.  I’m sure there are many people up and down the country suffering from it right now.  They’re feeling the pull between the fun of the weekend, and not wanting to spoil the time they’ve had, and the ever closer trill of the Monday morning alarm.  Back to work.  The daily grind.
I’ve had a temporary reprieve: garden leave.  Tonight is the first time in a while that I’m quite looking forward to Monday.  I’m apprehensive, sure, about what the next few months has in store but I’m also genuinely excited.  My day is not going to be governed by my diary and its helpful little reminders that I have to dial in to a conference call in fifteen minutes, or that I haven’t left enough time to get to my next meeting.  I’m not even wearing my watch today!
It’s going to be like that blissful few days on holiday when you’re not bound by time at all.  The only thing that dictates what to do when is your stomach, which thinks it must be getting close to lunchtime now. Who says it’s too early for a beer?  And who cares anyway?!  Like the song says, it’s five o’clock somewhere.  Isn’t that what holidays are for?  Total relaxation and a complete break from quotidian routine.
I don’t think for a minute that I’ll last long without a bit of structure to my day.  I think we need a bit of schedule and routine.  It can be a definite blessing in disguise. Take housework as a prime example.  I could reel off a list of a hundred things I’d rather be doing , but in fact, by setting a time limit on how much I’m going to do, I do achieve a lot more.  I’ll spend half an hour cleaning, but then treat myself with half an hour reading; books, magazines, blogs.  That’s the problem; there just isn’t enough time for all the ‘fun’ things I want to do.
I’d wager that by Tuesday lunchtime I’ve set up my diary with prompts and reminders, my own to-do list and structured the whole week again.  The difference will be that this time, it’s on my time.  My rules.

You can see more posts about Time at Sleep Is For The Weak here.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

An Illicit Love

I brush past you.  The slightest touch against my skin thrills me and makes my whole body tingle.  I can’t help but gaze at you, so stylish and bold.  I shouldn’t stare, but I could swear I just saw you wink at me.  I know that if you could, you would call my name.  This relationship must not be allowed to continue.  I will end it before it even has a chance, because it is just not fair.  The temptation is so fierce though, testing my willpower to the limit.  I must be strong, I must resist.  That is my mantra as I just feel your presence in my home.
I could burst with excitement!  The Baby Boden catalogue has arrived!