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After reading other titles by Harriett Evans, I was destined to read Going Home. I had been told it was her best, and I would be gripped so I couldn't wait to read it.
Going Home is centred on Lizzy and her family. Lizzy is in her late 20's and lives and works in London. Her family live in the countryside in a large old house that has been in the family for generations. Going back to her parent's house at weekends etc is to Lizzy like going home, hence the title of the book.
When I first started reading, I wondered where the story was going to go. An old house and a large family to learn about with all the hidden extras in between were beginning to sound a bit much for my tired old mind.
Lizzy has split up with the love of her life, David, who also lives in the same country village as her parents. Part of Lizzy dreads going back for occasions because of this, as she still feels raw about the break as it ended badly for Lizzy. She hasn't moved on in her love life and we learn very quickly that her character as a whole is quite stagnant in where she wants to be and where she perhaps should be in her life.
The whole book centres on the house known as Keeper House, and the forced sale of the beloved family home, as well as a last big occasion of a wedding just before it sells.
Lizzy is very close to her family, her sister, aunts and uncle and parents. All the characters feature quite a lot in the book, but whilst they are important to the plot, they can also be none descripting as the true line in the book follows LIzzy.
With other Harriett Evans novels, I have found myself with tears in my eyes at various intervals in the book. She has a knack of drawing you into the characters and living their lives as if they were your own. Early on in the book I was weeping along with Lizzy and thought I was in for a fantastic read. However as the book wore on, and we almost know what the outcome of the book will be as the reader, I found that I was reading over text just waiting for the ending to happen, and that it wasn't going to be a surprise.
I have to say there were some twists and turns to the book and the ending wasn't quite what I thought it was going to be. There was also some good twists to Lizzy's love life as we progressed further into the story, which kept me focused through the other mundane parts of the story that almost needed to be told to get to the ending, but weren't very interesting to me.
I don't believe that Going Home is Harriett Evans' best at all and I am glad I read this one last, as I think I would have missed out on the other goods reads I have read from her if this had been at the top of my pile. That would have been a shame so if you have read this and didn't think much of it, give another of her titles a try, you'll be surprised.
You couldn't get any more chick lit than this book if you tried, but unfortunately it's a chick lit that requires you to think a bit more due to the mass of characters you need to get to know. I prefer an easier read in chick lit.
Price: £5.99 Amazon
Every year Lizzy Walters, her sister and her cousin make the trip home from their busy lives in London to the family home in the country. For Lizzy this often leads to confronting old flames and keeping the family happy. This time however the family are keeping a secret from her, something that everyone seems to know about apart from her. Then to make matters worse the love of her life has returned onto the scene, just when she thought she had managed to move on. So when it came to a family Wedding, Lizzy has to act quickly to save her cherished retreat and keep her love life on track.
I came across Harriet Evans in an airport WH Smith's a few months ago and as I'd not heard of her but liked the sound of this I decided that I would give it a try. Of course the reason I hadn't heard of her was because this is her debut novel. She has a very enjoyable writing style, where the story is told from the characters point of view as it gives you a good insight into the main characters thoughts and dreams, but also makes it feel like your reading someone else's diary. Her style fits well within the context of the story and I really found it hard to stop reading.
When I read I always like to find myself identifying with the main character and I think that Harriet really does this well. I found myself really identifying with her and coupled with a very humorous writing style I really enjoyed the way she had brought the lead character to life. It's not only her lead character that works well, but all the supporting cast too. I felt she really brought everyone into the story well and made you really care about the story.
I'm actually a huge fan of Sophie Kinsella and I really feel that anyone who also likes Sophie will enjoy what Harriet has come up with here. She has a very strong plot that keeps you interested, using a lead character that you really care about. I felt that Harriet has a real talent for telling a story and it really shows within the plot and characters in this book. I think this also really struck a chord with me in terms of having that escape place to run back to and finding that one day it might not be there anymore. It's quite similar to what actually happened with my own families home.
This really isn't a taxing read and perhaps that would be my only real complaint. Of course the fact that the story is so easy going and simple to follow made it ideal for reading on the flight to Milan and back again. It is currently available from Amazon for £5.99 and for fans of Sophie Kinsella or Jill Mansell I think you'd really enjoy it.
Paperback: 448 pages
Having booked a ten day holiday to Sicily, it was evident I was going to need some light and easy reading material for the plane, the beach and anywhere else I was planning to laze around.
Now, not being clever, I left this until I was at the airport. Rushing into WH Smith ten minutes before the gates closed I scrambled together three books for their promotion, paid hastily and ran to get the plane. On board I scanned the first book: 'Going Home' by Harriet Evans.
'Going Home' is the first novel by Harriet Evans, and has been described as 'A delicious romp through family life, funny and engaging' by Choice magazine. Sophie Kinsella is also quoted on the front cover as saying 'Fabulous I loved it.'
So what's it about?
Basically, the story revolves around Lizzy, a twenty-something woman with a strange-yet-loveable family. Every Christmas she and her younger sister and cousin make their pilgrimage from busy London to the old family home, Keeper House. Every Christmas they have the same traditions, her dad will make a not-so-funny longwinded speech, her mother will be happily cooking in the kitchen, her Uncle Mike will travel over from The Big Apple to be with them but this year it's different. Something has happened, and it's being kept a secret. What's more, Keeper House is in danger of being sold! Her ever-bachelor Uncle Mike arrives with his new wife, a posh and prissy lawyer from the US and with the unexpected arrival of the ex-Love of Her Life things turn to complete chaos. As reality sets in, we learn why Keeper House is in jeopardy, what secret one member of the family has been hiding and why the course of love didn't run smooth for her.
With a family wedding at Keeper House in the Summer, Lizzy has to take control of her life. Soon, she learns the annoying rich couple from the village are buying the house and things seem to be going full steam ahead. Will Lizzy manage to save Keeper House, her love life and her family?
To be honest, I only had a few second in the shop to gather what three books were about. The only reason I bought it, really, was because it was recommended by Sophie Kinsella, a favourite author of mine. When I settled down to read it, the blurb was interesting, but if I had had more time to choose another book I probably would have. It's not really something that would stand out to me. The idea in itself is nice, but not what I would usually go for.
The characters are mainly all well developed and it's easy to get involved in their lives. Lizzy, obviously being the protagonist, is a typical single twenty-something girl, working hard whilst trying to sort out her love life. She is still suffering from a bad break up, and to make matters worse, her ex David doesn't even think he's done anything wrong! Keeper House to Lizzy is her haven, her refuge from her urban city life. She is shattered when she learns it has to be sold, and is perhaps the only one of her family who really struggles to come to terms with it especially when she learns WHY it's being sold and who's fault it really is.
My opinion is that although I can relate to some of the situations Lizzy has been through (bad break ups? Come on girls, we've all had one, or two, or three ) I don't understand her actions. She completely closes up towards the middle of the book, revealing no emotion, no really believable feelings. Even when she does find another romantic interest, it seems strained and a little too well, strange. Even toward the end of the book, her actions seem passive and like she's floating through the event unfolding. This may have been because it is Evans' first novel, but as an experienced editor these flaws and weaknesses should have been pointed out.
Jess and Tom are her younger sister and cousin respectively. Jess is the ditzy, carefree one and Tom is the ever sarcastic, ever annoying and immature one. It's hard for me to believe his story really. He is apparently a high powered lawyer in the city, who lives in Clerkenwell and never has time off for a drink let alone anything else. But as he develops in the book he becomes very selfish and immature. Not the way I would expect a high powered lawyer living in one of the most expensive areas on London to act. It doesn't ring true.
Tom's father died when he was about two and it's evident that he was a well loved and missed member of the family. This is probably the saddest theme in the whole book and is well written and utilised throughout. Toms mother, Kate, lives in a cottage near Lizzy's parents and together they are a close knit unit. I have to say, this theme is very well written, and the paragraphs and pages where Tom's parents are mentioned are somehow better than some of the major events that are unfolding.
Uncle Mike is the fun, silly uncle that can't help but make jokes and mess around. You know the type: always immature and silly no matter how old they are! When he says he's not going to make it to the house because of some deal that's keeping him in the office, imagine everyone's faces when he turns up! Lizzy fondly remembers in one of her recollections: 'Who, for my thirteenth birthday, took charge of the party when Mum was ill with flu and escorted me, with ten of my friends, to the cinema, where we saw a '15' film (A Fish Called Wanda) then went to Pizza Express where he let us all have a glass of wine and tipped the waiter to go and buy me a proper birthday cake from the patisserie next door?'
Chin is Lizzy's young, trendy, boho aunt and Gibbo is her Aussie boyfriend. These are two very well written characters, probably the most realistic and most comprehendible of them all. Gibbo serves as a mediator when arguments ensue and calms Chin, who has a reputation for being highly strung, perfectly. I would think that these two characters would be based on people Evans knows, as they are so lifelike.
There are many other characters in the book, but all play major parts in the storyline so I won't spoil it for you.
The book is written in past tense first person, for example: 'I jumped off the bus at the lights and scurried down the cobbled street to my flat.' I must admit, I have a fondness for first person books and novels as it helps see what the character is thinking and only reveals things to the reader as the characters find out themselves. It adds an element of surprise and feeling.
The only problem with writing in this tense is that it started to feel a little bit like an extended diary extract. In fact, in some portions it could well have 'Dear Diary' written above them.
The writing style in general is humorous and colloquial. It's isn't stuffy or pretentious and fit well into the chicklit genre. The dialogue is well proportioned to narrative and is easy to read, being very conversational. However in some portions of extended dialogue, mainly when three or more people are talking together, I did get confused as to who was speaking. I felt there wasn't enough clarity in this
What I Think Overall
My opinion of the book is a fairly high one, despite some flaws in character development. The theme was well thought out and researched and hit home with me personally. Evans develops the subject of change expertly; does the house being sold mean the family will disband? Change will happen eventually, but what if those changes aren't for the good, but for the worse? Despite the book being quite a light read, some weighty matters and issues are raised that will captivate the reader throughout the end. It kept me hooked wanting to find out more, which in my opinion is a great skill that not all authors have.
All in all, it was an entertaining and engaging read that I would recommend for the summer hols!
Where to buy it
Amzon have this book on sale for £4.99, but you could easily pick one up on eBay for less. If you're not really into the whole internet shopping thing, try WH Smith, Borders, Waterstones etc where they should be selling the book at the RRP of £6.99.
Paperback: 448 pages