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This is the first book by Martina Reilly that I've read and I was encouraged to do so by my mother, who is a big fan of her work.
Poppy Furlong has lived a life of luxury thanks to her well-off family and is used to wanting for nothing. Her sheltered life is turned upside down when her husband, Pete, reveals that his architect business is in dire straits due to unforeseen circumstances and their comfortable life is all but over. Faced with the previously unthinkable need to now live within her means and even get a job to support the family, will Poppy be able to cope with her changed situation and realise what's really important? There is also a sub-plot involving Poppy and Pete's son, Billy, whose behaviour is becoming increasingly erratic, which puts further strain on the family unit.
POPPY is the main character and I must admit that I didn't really take to her attitude for much of the book. To me, she came across as quite snobbish and unwilling to see how bad the financial situation really was. Even when she did get to grips with this, she still thought nothing of shelling out for clothes that they couldn't afford on Pete's new (lower) salary, and this really irritated me. I warmed to her as the book went on but I tend to find that when I don't take to a character from the word go, it's difficult to be as immersed in the book as I probably would be otherwise.
PETE is Poppy's husband and despite this big role in my plot summary, he's not really a major player in the book and just drifts in and out of the plot. He's much more rational than Poppy but because the narrative is from Poppy's perspective, we only really see him through her eyes and this is at times rather biased (as you'd probably expect) so I don't feel that able to give a full character overview.
BILLY is Poppy's boisterous and very lively son, whose erratic behaviour starts to slot into place when he's diagnosed with a condition (not physical).
THELMA is Pete's mother, who comes to stay with the family for a while. At first, I found her annoying and couldn't take to her but as things went on, she became quite amusing and I ended up liking her a lot.
MAXI is a character that Poppy first meets while she's adjusting to the change in circumstances. She's quite a strong character but she livened things up.
WRITING STYLE AND NARRATIVE
As I've mentioned, it's written from Poppy's perspective. While you'd probably class this as chick lit of a sort from the plot, the writing style isn't particularly fluffy and there are some darker issues covered within the plot. When books are written from the viewpoint of the narrator, I tend to assume that they'll be quite chatty and informal (maybe I read too many chick lit books!) but this wasn't really like that.
All in all, I wouldn't say that this was a bad book by any means but it just failed to really draw me in, and most of that was down to the fact that I just couldn't take to Poppy's character. I suspect that was an intentional move by the author to reach the end message of the book but it did somewhat affect my enjoyment of the book. I was really impressed by the level of detail about Billy's diagnosis and treatment and it was obvious that the author was done some thorough research in this area while writing the book and that made things more interesting. If things had centred solely on the situation at home, I'm not even sure that I'd have bothered to finish the book and I felt that the sub-plots around Billy and Thelma and Poppy's interactions with Maxi made things a bit more interesting.
When I'm bored in town, I like to go to the bookshops, such as WH Smith and Waterstones and have a little browse down their fiction aisles, looking for a new author or a new book which is something different to what I would normally read. This book was on a promotional stand, and the cover looked quite appealing, so I picked it up and had a look. I decided I'd very much like to read it, so when I got home I tried my luck on ReadItSwapIt and managed to get a copy.
Well, imagine my shock when it arrived through my door a couple of days later and I found out that my "new author" was in face someone I have read many books of in the past! Martina Reilly i actually the same person as "Tina Reilly", she has just changed her first name to apparently appear more grown-up, and has changed the cover style of her books from loud and garish, to more mature and chic. Well, I wasn't too annoyed as I did enjoy her books but I was unsure whether she would have changed her writing style as well as her name....
All I Want Is You tells us the story of Poppy Furlong. Poppy has grown up in a wealthy family, always having the best of whatever she wanted and never having to work for it either. But Poppy gets a shock when her husband Pete comes home one day with a shocking revelation about his successful Architects business. Poppy's life is thrown into disarray as she has to give her beautiful house, settle in to a more surburban area than she is used to, as well as coping with her wild and difficult 6 year old. Poppy isn't used to being challenged, but she's about to face some pretty big ones...
After reading a couple of chapters of the book, I was a bit unsure about how the book was going to pan out. The storyline seemed a bit depressing, and the lead character Poppy seemed very unlikeable. She had lots of luxuries and loved them very much, but when they were about to be compromised, all she did was whinge and whine about them. She didn't seem to appreciate much, her husband, her house, even her child at some points and for that reason, I just didn't warm to her at all. In fact, it wasn't until really near the end of the book that I started to like her and saw past the rich-woman facade that the author had put on her.
Her husband Pete was mentioned throughout the book but didn't feature majorly. It was clear throughout that despite the love the couple had for each other that they didn't get on, and while this must reflect real-life relationships, it didn't make for happy reading, and somewhat subdued even more! However, the storyline around Poppy's son Billy and his diagnosis was very well written and delicately handled by the author. She has clearly researched the subject deeply, and this was reflected in the way she handled the story. She wrote Billy in a way which endeared you to him, yet made you exhausted just reading about him! The way Poppy dealt with it was incredibly realistic, and you almost went on the journey with her, from diagnosis to fighting her husband about their son.
The book is written in the first person which gives you a good insight into Poppy, as obviously we get her take on everything that is happening. This is good at points as she is a good narrator and the author Reilly writes in an easy to read way which gets you thoroughly involved in the novel. However, this did work against her at points because of Poppy as a character and the fact she wasn't always likeable. I did find her irritating and at times put the book down for a while as at points it was hard going.
The story is a very good one - a woman whose life gets turned upside down, but who has to try to get it back on track again. Its something which has been done before of course but is nonetheless a very readable book, worth reading for the superb storyline of Billy and Poppy alone. This was the gem hidden in the book, and certainly deserved more mention on the cover as it was written so very well. An enjoyable book, and much more serious than Reilly's other works. I do prefer her earlier works but this is still a good read. To be honest, I'd prefer to give this 2 and a half stars, but since I can't, I decided to round it up as I don't think its bad enough for 2 stars
ISBN: 978-0751537901. Published by Sphere in June 2007 in paperback. The book has 416 pages. You can buy a paperback from Amazon for £5.49 (plus postage) or in a shop with an RRP of £6.99.
Thank you for reading.