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I used to read a lot of Jill Mansell years ago when I was in my early twenties, but when I was around 25 I switched to almost exclusively reading non-fiction. I think this was perhaps snobbishness on my part, a feeling that I wasn't really gaining any knowledge from reading romance novels. However, a bout of severe depression earlier this year diminished my interest in reading almost entirely (I went from reading a whole book every one or two days, to taking a month to read just one), until one day I came across 'A walk in the park' in a charity shop and decided that, actually, something light and entertaining was exactly what I fancied.
Lara hasn't been to her hometown in 18 years, but when the solicitor calls to let her know her estranged father has died and it might be in her interests to get down there, she does, sending the rumour mill into overdrive. After the service, she bumps into her best friend Evie, whom she hasn't seen since she apparently just up sticks and ran away, leaving Evie, not to mention her handsome boyfriend Flynn, behind. Evie is delighted to see her, and invites her to her upcoming wedding. When she discovers that her late fathers house now belongs to her, and in fact has done since here mothers death, things seem to fall into place, and before she knows it, she's back among old friends and old flames, but how will Flynn react when he hears the real reason she left town all those years ago?
Jill Mansell has always, in my mind, had a very witty turn of phrase, and a way of making little in-jokes in her books that I find very entertaining. Her books often have several romantic plot lines going on at once, and this one is no exception. As well as the will-they-won't-they between Lara and Flynn, we have jewellery shop owner don, who is camp as a row of pink tents, but insists he isn't gay, fending off the approaches of various glamourous but lonely old dears. We have rap star Enjay7 trying to chat up anything in a skirt, and Evie, torn between her philandering ex-fiance and a man who makes her heart sing, but who apparently has an unacceptable cruel streak.
This book iss a comedy of misunderstandings. As you're reading, you can, for the most part, predict who is going to end up with who - it's how they're going to get there, and what sort of comedy capers they'll get up to on the way that is the mystery, although there are always a couple of little surprising twists.
I like the fact that Jill Mansell often handles the 'main' romance plot of her book by showing both sides - the reader isn't left wondering if person X and Y love each other - we're told. But we're also told why X and Y might not choose to be together. It's something that makes the characters very likeable, and engenders sympathy for the male and female characters alike, rather than only presenting the one sided female view. It also allows us to see into the depths of the misunderstandings, and to read the book thinking 'Oh, if only she knew how he felt'.
One criticism of the book however is that initially I couldn't see where certain characters fit into the story - for example, with Lara and company based in Bath, I couldn't really see where Harry, the awkward shy 'Hugh Grant' sort of character, who lived in Keswick, fit in. Things did become clear later on, but it was a little confusing at first.
I found this book incredibly readable - it's just light hearted and enjoyable, and for the first time I found myself finishing a book in a day the way I used to. It's a cheerful book -it may not be intellectually challenging, but it's just FUN, and you end up caring about the characters and not wanting to put the book down until you've reached the happy ending!
Overall, I loved this book. I really REALLY enjoyed it, and I hadn't enjoyed a book for such a long time. I'm glad to say my depression is under control and I have my love of reading back - and the fact that I did get it back is thanks to the fact that, after reading this, I went on a bit of a Jill Mansell binge and just enjoyed reading!
5 Stars - for getting me over my reading snobbery, and teaching me to just enjoy myself again!
A Walk In The Park.
When Lara heads back to the town she abandoned almost 19 years before for her estranged father's funeral she sets tongues wagging. Aged just 16 at the time she apparently ran away leaving her devoted boyfriend Flynn and best friend Evie behind with no explanation and no word of her whereabouts. After the funeral Lara ends up meeting up with Evie and fills her in on why she left and gets invited to Evie's nuptials to Joel and agrees to attend on one condition that Flynn won't be there as Laura has a little secret and isn't too sure how he will react and wants to meet him again on her terms..
With the aftermath effects of her father's death and Lara's decision to move back to town things seem bumpy at first, especially with Flynn discovering Lara's reason for leaving 18 years ago - the spark is still obviously there but will the two rekindle the passion they once had, or is it too late? Will Evie live happily ever after with wayward ladies man Joel or is it just not meant to be? Throw in US rap star Enjay7, straight laced countryman Harry, no nonsense aunt Nettie, and flamboyant shop owner Don to name a few and things are certainly eventful..
My friend discovered Jill Mansell books just over a year ago and became a huge fan, buying as many titles as she could lay her hands on, which meant once read they were passed on to me. Although I'd heard of her, the first time I picked up one of Mansell's books was when my friend passed it on and I became quite hooked on her style of writing and now eagerly look forward to when I hear the words "I've almost finished reading that book" from said friend as I know I'm usually in for a treat as Jill Mansell books for me are chick lit at it's best.
A Walk In The Park is the newest Mansell book and I admit I was eagerly looking forward to reading it as I'd read many positive reviews on sites such as this as well as a few friends had mentioned how good it was from people so was thrilled when it was handed to me a little over a week ago. The book is in a hardback format with a soft and sedate cover in shades of green depicting an image of a park and looks much thicker than the 423 pages it holds.
As soon as I started to read the first few pages of 'A Walk In The Park' I knew it was going to be one of those books that would be impossible to put down.. and I was right. The main character Lara is easy to like from the start and I instantly warmed to her easy going down to earth manner and no nonsense attitude to situations. Evie plays a big part in the book with her own separate ongoing story which intertwines with Lara's but I thought her character to be quite mediocre to be honest and found I was far more interested in the goings on of Lara's tangled life than that of Evie. That said, Evie is still a crucial character in the plot and her back story helps make the book what it is and I didn't dislike her I just found her slightly dull in comparison with Lara.
For some reason I wanted not to like Flynn but as soon as he was introduced (quite early on) I found him on an equal par with Lara and was willing them all the way through the book to become a couple. He is a strong character who you can't help but like and I personally like the way Mansell portrays him as someone who stands his ground rather than the dashing knight in armor persona that he could so easily as ended up as.
There are several 'main' characters in this story which all in some way centre around Lara and I can honestly say I liked all of them. There always seems to be one or two characters in a story that are weak or unlikable but I didn't find that here, even Evie - she wasn't my favourite but wasn't unlikable, just not as appealing as Lara as she seemed stronger, and therefor won in the popularity stakes (with me anyway). I loved the flamboyant Don who is introduced into the book around halfway and was a hit with me right from the start as I could actually picture him saying and doing the things that was being described in the book.
The character of Harry seems to come from nowhere and one minute I was reading about Lara and Evie's lives then the next was quite an in depth separate story featuring Harry which I found a little confusing. All though all is made clear later on in the book I would have preferred the link to be a little bit more obvious as I found myself getting frustrated who he was. The introduction of a rap superstar (Enjay7) all seemed way off the mark at first but again I found myself warming to both of them and I was quite surprised by the twists and turns involving their characters as I truly didn't see it coming.
**Would I recommend it?**
I really did enjoy reading this book from cover to cover and found it to be one of Jill Mansell's best so far. Out of the many titles of hers that I have read there hasn't been any that I haven't enjoyed though wouldn't necessarily read again, but this book was definitely one I knew I would want to pick up again in the future.
It's so easy to read and the story just flows, the only slight 'negative' if that's what I can even call it was the Harry story line as I didn't particularly find it paramount to the overall tale and if removed I don't think it would have made that much of an impact. That's merely my opinion though.
For anyone that has read this book they may be wondering why I've emitted mentioning quite a major character who features throughout, but personally I feel it would spoil the premise of the whole story if I were to go into any sort of detail at all which is why I've not mentioned this person.
I read A Walk In The Park in less than a week whereas any other book containing 423 pages would have normally taken me twice that long as I tend to read a chapter or two so I think the fact it was read so quickly gives some indication as to how irresistible it was. The book is pure indulgence and like all other Jill Mansell books it has a romantic edge that never crosses the line to being 'soppy'. It's wonderfully comical and a very easy book to get into and I'm just so glad that my friend discovered her love of these books as I don't know when I would have started reading them myself.
Headline publishing group
"It's been a while, but Lara Carson's back in Bath and lives are set to change as a result. Because Lara left her family and boyfriend Flynn eighteen years ago without a word to anyone. Why has no one heard from her since? Her childhood best friend Evie is thrilled Lara's back and able to share her happiness. Evie's about to walk down the aisle with her dream man, Joel. Or so she thinks... Then there's Flynn Erskine, even more attractive now and stunned to see Lara again. The spark between them is as strong as ever, but how's Flynn going to react when he discovers the secret she's been keeping from him? Oh yes, there's a lot of catching up to be done..."
I love Jill Mansell's books. There's something very readable about them, and I just enjoy the stories, the characters and the way Jill unravels a story. Amazingly, this is Jill's 23rd book, and she seems to get better with each book. I love the cover of this one, it really suits the title of the book perfectly, and green isn't a very used colour in chick lit colours, so it'll certainly stand out on a bookshelf. Once I had read the blurb of this book, I knew that I wanted to read it and find out exactly why Lara had to run away all of those years ago, and I knew from previous experience with Jill's books that it wouldn't be all straight forward, and so I eagerly got stuck in!
The book begins with Lara returning to her hometown of Bath after 18 years away from it, for the funeral of her father. Don't feel too sorry for her though, because Lara isn't sad her dad has died, they never had a good relationship when she was young, which was why she ran away when she was 16. In the interim, she's had a daughter called Gigi, who she has brought up alone, and she's quite worried about returning home to her old life once more. Things are quite quickly revealed as to why Lara had to run away, but it's the fallout from this which makes up the rest of story, and Lara's determination to make things right and find out why her father hated her so much. I loved the character of Lara, she was really likeable and friendly, and the perfect heroine for the book. Yes, she was a little bit flawed and wouldn't admit her feelings for old boyfriend Flynn who makes a reappearance, but other than that, she's great and I was really wanting everything to work out for her.
I absolutely loved Gigi, Lara's young daughter who plays quite an important role in the book, especially as she's an older teenager rather than young child, and has her own mind and makes some important moves in the book. Mansell wrote the relationship between the pair perfectly, and it was lovely to read a positive mother/daughter relationship in chick lit as they can quite often be dysfunctional and not always easy to read. The other character I really liked was Flynn, the old boyfriend of Lara who turns out to be quite a major character in the book too. It annoyed me that neither of them would admit to their true feelings, and strung it out over the book, but he was very likeable, although I didn't like something he did near the end of the novel! He is a pretty good hero character, and I enjoyed reading the story between Lara and Flynn come about, and them facing up to their actions of years ago and how it still impacts on their lives now. Oh, and I have to mention the hilarious yet touching storyline between Lara's friend Harry and superstar rapper Enjay, it had me laughing out loud and was something totally unexpected in the book!
Mansell isn't afraid to write about some important issues, and she covers those with ease and grace in the book. I found the dynamic between Lara, Gigi and Flynn was extremely well written, and I feel Mansell has really done her research when it comes to the issues that these characters are facing. Not only that, but Lara has to find out some other things about her long-deceased mother too which she struggles to deal with, but I liked how the character approached these things, and it opened up other relationships in the book that were really touching, and I defy anyone not to shed a bit of a tear at the emotional ending of this book due to that storyline! I love Mansell's descriptions of Bath, she really brings it to life with her writing, and it is somewhere I definitely want to visit now! I love how Mansell manages to juggle several stories within the one book, without making them feel like one is more important than the other, from Lara's tale, to her best friend's relationship breakdown to Harry and Enjay too. I really enjoyed this book, and I read it relatively quickly as I didn't want to put it down, I was really involved in the lives of Lara and co. and didn't want to leave them behind! Mansell has another hit novel on her hands here, and rightly so, it's brilliant!
ISBN: 978-0755355839. Published by Headline Review on 16th February 2012. Pages: 432. RRP: £9.99. Also available as an eBook.
Thank you to the publishers for sending me a copy to review for http://chicklitchloe.blogspot.com
Thank you for reading.