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Good Night Beautiful - Dorothy Koomson
A Little about the author:
Apparently she wrote her first novel called "There's A Thin Line Between Love And Hate" when only 13,while at school and according to Koomson, her fellow pupils loved it.
She grew up in London, and then attended Leeds University after which she returned to London for her masters. She has had various jobs writing and editing for different women's magazines and national papers.
She has written a number of novels, I think I have read three others. This book I believe is her fifth novel. In 2006 her third novel, "My Best Friend's Girl" was incredibly successful initially selling nearly 90,000 copies within its first few weeks on sale. Then it was given a further boost when it was selected for the Richard & Judy Summer Reads Book Club and the book went on to sell over 500,000 copies. I think that was probably the big boost to her popularity and brought her name to the reading public in a big way.
My feelings about her books generally:
I first came across her books when I picked up "Marshmallows for Breakfast", read it and enjoyed it so then I remembered her name and have kept an eye out for her books since. In my view I enjoy them but feel I would not be willing to pay full price so 'keeping an eye pout' means if i see them in bookcrossing paces or charity shops.
They are 'chicklit' or beach reads, the kind of books I read on a plane or after I have read something a bit depressing and I need a quick bit of escapism. I often read books that are quite emotional and at times heart rending and it is after reading a number of those kind of books that I grab one of these. My recent reading has included a number of books about Rwanda and I needed a break so this one went on holiday with me for a change of pace.
I find her style very easy to read. I like the way she makes her characters feel real, they are not so wonderfully perfect nor are the 'baddies' all bad. She tells a good story which usually has a few twists and turns.
"Goodnight Beautiful" what critics have said:
A tragic novel about a surrogacy gone wrong" - Cosmopolitan
" A moving read" - Hot Stars
" You'll need tissues." - Heat
"With characteristic humorous and detailed description, she introduces us to ova, left to bring up her son Leo alone when a surrogacy arrangement with her best friend and his wife goes horribly wrong. "- She magazine
"An unforgettable, beautifully crafted testimony to an unbreakable love that lasts a lifetime and beyond." -
What I thought:
In my view the blurb on the back tells you too much about the story. I have also read reviews about the book which rather give away the story too. Obviously there is more to it than the blurb's information but still I feel the blurb should tempt you in not almost tell you the whole story.
Basically Nova's family support and almost bring up Mal and his sister as their father is not around and their mother suffers is bi-polar. Nova and Mal are almost brother and sister and share everything; they have secrets, support each other, listen to each other's problems and are true soul mates.
They end up getting married but not to each other. Mal is married to Stephanie and Nova agrees to have a baby for them, but halfway through the pregnancy, Mal and Stephanie change their minds and leave Nova pregnant. Nova keeps the baby, and the story begins with us knowing that her boy, Leo, is in a coma. The story is told in flash backs, by two different characters, Stephanie and Nova and with bits in between by Leo the son in a coma.
I found Nova quite a strong character and her reactions perfectly understandable. I felt her hurt but did find it hard to believe that she didn't want to scratch Stephanie's eyes out for what she did but she just kept saying she felt sorry for her. I found that a little hard to swallow considering he behavious.
I found Mal to be a little too good to be true. He was handsome, caring and prepared to give up his best friend ever to keep his word to Stephanie. I am not sure that many people would be quite so 'all or nothing' and just walk away from someone they had been that close to for what ever reason.
Stephanie was very hard to like. Even after her big confession to her friend I thought what she had done was unforgivable. She had mental health issues too but even so I still found her behaviour difficult to accept but maybe I am not very forgiving a person.
Keith, Nova's husband is also too good to be true. Their relationship very strange and I am not sure that rang true. The idea of loving someone but not wanting to be with them seemed very odd to me.
Mal's mother was another character who didn't entirely ring true to me. She was bipolar so this apparently meant that she had several attempted suicides while her kids were young hence Nova's parents bringing her children up yet she seems eminently normal once they became adults and becomes the one they turn to for support.
The writing style:
I like the way Koomson writes. She has a friendly, easy style and her characters are human and in spite of my niggles described previously they do come to life and you do start to care for them. You are quickly drawn into the story and willing the events to go well for those you are rooting for. The story is quite simple yet there are twists and turns you don't expect.
What I didn't like was the jumping between the character's writing in each chapter. Nova would 'write ' one chapter then it would jump to Stephanie and at times I had read about a page and thought that is odd , looked back and realised it was Stephanie not Nova. The bits 'written' by Leo was easy to identify as they were in italics but the others were often more tricky. It would make it easier with the jumping between character's voices if the character's name was popped at the start of the chapter and in my view would have helped the reader and not been a distraction at all.
What did I think?
Many reviews have said it is a tear jerker and you will need a box of tissues but although I was interested in the story and did care about what happened I managed to read the book without any tissues needed. I did find it quite a moving story but there were things that happened between Mal and Nova that I found totally unlikely in the circumstances and the ending of the novel was also not really one I would have thought would have been a likely scenario in real life.
So it was an easy read, the style was straightforward and took on a problem that may well come up in these modern times. The book takes you on a bit of a roller coaster of emotions. There are some very funny bits and some touching moments but there are some very emotionally confusing elements along with the heart breakingly sad and at times unforgivable behaviour.
This is a chick lit book and so I shouldn't really be reading too much into some of the character's behaviour. You do have to accept some of the events and character's reactions and not think too deeply about whether they would really have happened in real life, it is a story and some things just have to accepted and not questioned by the reader
I enjoyed the read and was always wanting to know what was going to happen in the story but found a few little things annoying and not truly believable but I kept reminding myself that it is a story and take it as that - a good story but I was not at all happy with the ending.
It was a good holiday read, an easy story to follow and a well written novel. It could do with character's names at the start of a chapter if the 'voices' telling the story are changing about in my view.
Would I read another of her books? Yes, they are what they are, a good yarn, nicely written but not books to be taken too seriously or to be questioned and thought about too deeply. I think this would be an interesting book to discuss at a book club as the different characters do some very strange things and I think it could spark some interesting discussions.
Would I recommend? Yes, I think if you accept the book for what it is and don't think too hard about some of the things the characters do then enjoy the story as a bit of escapism. I would describe this as a good beach read or one to pop in the hand luggage to read on the plane as it doesn't require too much brain power.
Thanks for reading. This review may be posted on other sites under my same user name.
There are no spoilers in this review.
Mal and Nova have been close friends since childhood so when Mal's wife, Stephanie finds that she cannot have children Mal suggests they ask Nova to be a surrogate mother for them. Nova agrees to help them even though it has a detrimental effect on her own relationship with her partner, Keith.
Four months into the pregnancy and Stephanie is struggling with the closeness between Mal and Nova and fears that she is losing her husband to his best friend, who is now carrying his baby. She gives Mal an ultimatum - Nova and the baby or her. Mal chooses Stephanie and they both walk away from Nova leaving her alone and scared with the prospect of a baby that she hadn't planned on keeping.
That was 8 years ago and now Nova is waiting for her son, Leo, to wake up from a coma following an accident. As the story unfolds, so the secrets and lies that have shaped the characters lives come to light, explaining how they came to be in the situation they now all find themselves.
At first I found the book a little difficult to understand as it is written from the viewpoint of both Stephanie and Nova and alternates between the past and the present. However, after a few chapters I settled into it and actually found it really interesting to find out what they were both thinking about a given event.
Having a baby for your best friend would have to be an act of unselfish, deep love for that friend and for that friend to then reject you and the baby would be devastating. I liked Nova as she is portrayed as a strong but sensitive woman who always tries to do the best for her family and friends, often putting aside her own feelings. Her strong love for Mal is palpable and enduring and her hurt at his rejection of her is all consuming. However, she also loves Keith who comes over as a less complicated and stronger person than Mal and he helps to ground her in a loving, strong relationship. I felt so sorry for her being left "holding the baby" but admired her strength in dealing with the situation and going on to have to deal with Leo's accident and his resulting coma. As a mother I found this part of the book incredibly moving and I could identify with all the emotions she goes through in not wanting to see her little boy in this condition and just wanting life to go back to "normal".
Stephanie initially comes over as the villain as she makes Mal choose between her and Nova and the baby but as the story unfolds I found some sympathy and understanding for her and the way she acted. In making Mal choose between his best friend and herself she creates a whole new set of emotions and problems that she doesn't at first foresee and Dorothy Koomson uncovers these with an incredible insight into the human psyche.
Mal shocked me with his decision to abandon his best friend but on the other hand he showed great loyalty to Stephanie who he had promised he would never leave and in fact makes a great sacrifice of his own happiness.
The story showed beyond doubt that outsiders should not judge relationships based on one side of the story as there is nearly always more than one side and quite often there is a catalogue of decisions and emotions that happen before the final result.
I found Dorothy Koomson to be an excellent author who dealt with the often difficult and emotive subjects of surrogacy and mental illness with so much empathy and insight, provoking me to think deeply about these subjects in a way that I hadn't before. Her style of writing conveys the feelings of the character as if they are talking directly to the reader in a heart to heart chat. I have never read a book with this style before and found it incredibly powerful.
This is Dorothy Koomson's fifth novel and I will certainly be reading more of her books. She is brilliant at describing feelings and empathising with human emotions and I found the whole book cleverly written as the layers of the characters are revealed and very moving. Thoroughly recommended.
In my opinion, not one of Koomson's finest offerings, but a still a great book.
Like someone else has said, I think I was spoilt by reading some of her later books first and then going back to find some of her older stuff once I grown to like her.
I found this book really hard to get into, because she writes from the viewpoint of different characters - it took me ages to get used to this change - but once you get over that, it deals with some hard issues in a sympathetic and gentle way. I enjoy reading books about hard and sensitive subjects, as it is nice to see how people deal with things (even if it is fiction!) that affect a lot of people.
As I've said, once you get into the book it is really gripping and a joy to read, but you might struggle if you find it hard to keep up with constant character switching.
I don't think this book is as strong as some of her others (My Best Friends Girl for example) as there is a bit too much description for my liking - I ended up having to skip some just to get to the more meaty stuff, which seemed to be padded out by the unnecessary narrative.
It hasn't put me off Koomson - it would take a lot more than too many descritptive words to do that!
A few weeks ago a friend lent this book to me, highly recommending it. I wasn't really sure what to expect as I hadn't heard of or read anything by the author before but gave it a go anyway.
Nova and Mal grew up together and were the best of friends, they would do anything for each other, they were never anything more than just friends although they could have been, neither of them wanted to ruin the friendship at the time. Nova always expected that she would eventually end up with Mal, but then in the later years when he had finished university he met Stephanie, fell in love with her and married her. When she finds out that she can't have children, Mal asks his friend the biggest favour, and so Nova agrees to have their child. However after tension and jealousy Steph makes him pick between the child and her, he picks Steph and so Nova is left raising their child by herself. However, memories and secrets bind them together and it won't be long before their paths cross...
The book is told in past and present, every other chapter it changes. This is a good thing because it helps with the character development since you can see why the characters made the decisions they made and how they got to be where they are in life. It provides different perspectives as you see the characters changing over time, and it changes your opinion of the character as opposed to if you'd just had the present time. I found that this book quite frustrated me though because the characters seemed to be making all of the wrong choices and I was just thinking no, don't do that! For example when Mal picks Steph over his child. I also found it very hard to like Steph, she seemed to be painted as the villain from the start however I did like the characters of Mal and Nova and it seemed like they would have made a great couple! Be warned though, the book does get very sad towards the end and deals with some quite upsetting themes. If you're considering surrogacy this book may put you off a bit!
Once again, my mum came to the rescue with some books when I had none left to read, and this is the latest one she gave me. I finished reading this at about 3o'clock this morning, and I was lying there after wanting to get up, get my laptop, and write my review. It took a lot for me to stay in bed and actually get some sleep before the little one woke me up!
I've been looking forward to telling people about this book, so here goes ...
Nova and Mal have known each other since they were very, very young, and even though they are not blood-related in any way, they are family (Nova's parents and Mal's parents are also very close). It was always thought by both of their families, and Nova, that her and Mal would end up being married to each other. After plucking up the courage to tell Mal how she feels, Nova is knocked back. Life for them both carries on, Nova meets Keith, and Mal meets Stephanie. Even before Stephanie meets Nova she feels threatened by her as it feels like all Mal talks about is Nova. Nova tries to encourage Stephanie that nothing has ever happened, or ever will happen, with Mal, but still Stephanie feels threatened.
Then Stephanie drops a bombshell, she tells Mal that she can't have children due to something that happened to her physically when she was 15years old. Mal stands by Stephanie and soon they marry. A few years on, and Stephanie drops yet another bombshell. She wants children. As she can't physically have children, they look at other alternatives, and soon Nova is asked the ultimate friendship favour - can she be a surrogate mother?
Amazingly Nova agrees to help, even though it means her losing Keith. In the beginning of the pregnancy everything is perfect. Steph and Mal can't do enough for her, and always talk to the 'bump'. But everything changes. Once again Stephanie is feeling threatened by Nova. She does the unthinkable. She tells Mal its either her, or Nova and the baby. Mal chooses Stephanie, and Nova is left to bring up a child that she never wanted, and that was meant to be for the person she has always loved.
Nova takes on this challenge of being a single mum (as well as never seeing Mal again) and gives birth to a beautiful baby boy called Leo, without ever telling her family who Leo's father is. But yet again, Nova is dealt another horrific blow when Leo is 7years old. Will this bring Nova and Mal back together as friends? And how will their individual relationships be affected? ..... You'd have to read it to find out!
This book was quite hard to get into in the beginning, but I persevered and I was glad I did. The chapters are written by Nova and Stephanie, and they are alternated between the two. Add to this, that time flicks between when Nova was a child, and growing up with Mal to the present day. This is certainly not easy or light reading, but after a few chapters you soon learn to understand Koomson's writing style, and it then becomes easy to follow. Perseverance is the key.
When I first started reading the book, I was unsure whether to carry on as it was all very confusing, flicking between the past and the present, and also flicking between characters. But I am so glad that I continued to read the book. It took me a while to get used to Koomson's writing style as I have never read any of her books before, but I soon 'got into the swing of things'. This confusion doesn't just happen with Koomson, every time I try a new author it takes me a while to learn how they write and to therefore understand the story. If you are like me, then try and continue to read the book, but if you're not like me then you shouldn't have any problems.
From the beginning I never liked the sound of Stephanie, and this feeling is in full swing towards the end of the book.
This book is so heartbreaking, and even though I try and shy away from books that will make me cry uncontrollably, I couldn't put this book down. I just had to see what happens to not only Mal and Nova, but Leo as well.
I will look out for other Dorothy Koomson books in future, but when I would like easy reading, then hers would have to stay on the shelf!
I recently started a new job and didn't know what to do with my lunch hour so I nipped over to Asda and bought this book. It is such a great book with twists and turns thoughout the book. Its is definatly a chick lit, which will be sure to have you in tears at some point. Its makes you realise how lucky you are and to make the most of what you have, things could be alot worse. I have been passing this book around all of my family and friends. After reading this book I have become quite addicted to reading all of Dorothy Koomson's books unfortunatly I am running out of her books to read. I am looking forward to reading her next one which should be out next year. A must read just make sure you have some tissues at the ready. Although there are some odd printing mistakes it is written beautifully.
I have read all her books and with her lastest 'Goodnight, Beauitful' does not disappoint! Her books draw you in by the way she writes them, with flash backs and by only giving certain information at the right points which makes you want to read more. This book is another very moving book which will have you in tears! About the love and strengh of friendships and about a mother and son's love. This story takes you through the view points of two characters Nova and Stephanie which are done by the chapters, chapter 1 is Nova's chapter 2 is Stephanie's etc. It also gives you the point of view of the little boy Leo, who is the main focus of the story, but not within chapters but inbeteeen them, this is done very cleverly inorder to hit the right emotions at certain points within the story. Once you pick up this book you will not be able to put it down!
I am a big fan of Dorothy Koomson and will happily read any new edition from her. Goodnight Beautiful is Koomson's 2008 novel, and as usual she manages to grip her target audience and draw them into the book as if they are actually a part of everyone's lives.
We meet Nova, Mal and their families at the start of the book. Over the course of the story we watch them grow from children into adults, and travel over the life path that they are given. Much of the book is situated around the characters as adults however so that is where I will concentrate my descriptions on.
Nova is a positive calm person, who has had a happy upbringing with secure parents. Whilst Nova isn't psychic, she presents certain tendencies to other people's thoughts and feelings which is why her career takes her to owning a psychic café.
Mal is much more grounded than Nova; however he hasn't had the luxury of such an easy upbringing. His mother is bi polar and his father died when Mal was nine years old. The years before that his father was in prison so Mal has never really had a relationship with his father.
Despite all this Mal is a character as down to earth as you could possibly imagine. The only thing you can see that Mal is scarred with is his protection of his mother. When he meets his wife who also has bi polar tendencies then you can understand why Mal acts in the way he does in certain parts of the book.
The book is told on a first person basis through a woman's perspective. The two women it focuses on are Nova and Mal's wife Stephanie. There are no clues as to who is telling the story at what time so you have to be involved in the book to understand who is speaking.
I found the majority of this ok and was able to follow quickly; however there were a couple of instances when the women were talking about Mal, and I wasn't sure who it was from to start with.
I realised also early on that the book was going to require a great deal of concentration as the time period flitted backwards and forwards a lot. For example at the beginning of the book, we meet Stephanie so we know that Mal has a wife, but a couple of chapters later, it's being told through Nova as a child.
This makes the book a bit difficult to read as a pick it up put it down kind of book, and you do have to be interested in the story otherwise you wont follow it properly.
I deliberately haven't given away a lot of the plot as there is a lot going on in the 400 pages that is this book; however the general jist of the book is that Nova's seven year old son is in a coma, and a lot of the novel is centred on this as a peak. How Nova got to this point in her life, and also how Mal and his wife figure in the story and events leading up to them.
I found the plot interesting, and I could keep up with it well at most times. I thought there were certain aspects of the book that were too far fetched to be included, however they did work. I know a lot of weird and wonderful events happen in real life so they were plausible, however I felt they could have been tweaked slightly to make them more believable.
Overall this book drew me in and made me cry as well as want to relate to Nova and her feelings she was going through at certain times. There was some heart wrenching scenes written and well done to Koomson for doing them so well.
My one negative of this book is the ending. I thought it could have be written better and made more relevant to the story; instead it took on a whole new tangent that could have opened the book up to needing more questions answered instead of providing closure.
If you like Dorothy Koomson, then this is definitely one to read.
I really enjoyed Dorothy Koomson's novel "Marshmallows For Breakfast" but wasn't so keen on the much-championed "My Best Friends Girl." However as the latter was written before the former I assumed that, as is the case with many writers, Koomson's writing had improved over time. Therefore I decided to read her most recent effort, "Goodnight Beautiful" to see if my theory was correct. And it certainly was as Koomson has excelled herself with this story.
Nova and Mal have grown up together and have been best friends all their lives. Nova always assumed they'd end up together and found herself falling for Mal as she got older. However things don't work out as she expected and Mal ends up marrying a woman named Stephanie. The one thing Stephanie wants most in the world is a child, but it's the one thing she can't have. Therefore she and Mal ask Nova to be a surrogate; the baby will genetically be Nova and Mal's but Mal and Stephanie will bring it up. However when the insecure Stephanie finds a text to Nova on Mal's phone saying "Goodnight Beautiful", Stephanie orders him to make a choice - her or his child. Mal picks Stephanie, so Nova is cut out of their lives and is left alone, pregnant and scared.
The novel starts in the present day, with Nova's son, Leo, now eight, seriously ill in a coma. At the same time Mal and Stephanie's marriage is falling apart. The story is told in first person with the point of view alternating from Nova to Stephanie. It flicks backwards in time so that we learn how close Mal and Nova were as children, and how Mal and Stephanie ended up together. I love the fact that the book switches between the two women as we get to see both points of view. I did find it confusing at times as it would occasionally take me a while to figure out whos point of view I was reading so I think the book might have worked better if their names had appeared at the start of each chapter.
This is a highly charged and emotional book and I found myself with tears in my eyes a few times. And I'm not someone who generally cries at books! The many twists in the plot show how a minor decision or misunderstanding can affect the entire course of your life. There was one particular scene at the airport which - when we find out what was meant to have happened there - left me feeling sad as things could have worked out so very different for Mal and Nova. The ending is very bittersweet and although part-happy, part-sad, stayed with me for a long time.
Koomson has a great knack of making sure that you never quite know how things are going to turn out - I found this was the case with the other books I've read by her aswell. I wasn't sure if Mal would end up leaving Stephanie and getting together with Nova and I couldn't tell whether Leo would pull through or not. I was rooting for both of these things to happen but won't spoil the story by telling you how things turn out! I found the book very hard to put down as I desperately wanted to know what would happen.
Koomson has created a realistic and diverse set of characters for this novel and I found it hard to forget about them after I had finished reading. Nova is a wonderfully strong and likeable character; her strength at handling her son's illness as well as Mal and Stephanie's abandonment is admirable. Stephanie is a more complex and not so likeable character. She is very insecure and jealous of Mal and Nova's friendship plus she suffers from a mental illness. I didn't find her as likeable as Nova and to be honest I would have been quite happy for Mal to have left her and ran off with Nova; I wouldn't particularly have cared if she had been left on her own. However I could sympathise with her and see where her insecurities came from.
I actually liked Mal even though I think he should have picked Nova over Stephanie. However he was doing what he thought was the right thing at its clear that he didn't find it easy. Mal's mother suffered from mental illness, therefore he had made a promise to Stephanie that he wouldn't abandon her, the same promise he had made to his mother.
The supporting characters are all realistic and well-rounded, although none of them play nearly as big a part as Mal, Nova and Stephanie. My only criticism is that all the characters are extremely good looking, plus I think there is too much description of their eyes, which can be a bit annoying at times.
Koomson handles sensitive subject matter - surrogacy, mental illness - with great care and has managed to craft a powerful novel of love, loss and new beginnings. I highly recommend this novel but would warn you to have hankies close to hand!
I absolutely loved this book, it has everything you could ever want from this kind of novel - laughs, tears and characters that you really feel yourself warming to.
The story is about a woman called Nova who agrees to be a surrogate mother for her best friend, Mal, and his partner Stephanie (who can't have children). The baby is biologically Nova and Mal's. Unfortunately at the last minute, Stephanie feels that Mal and Nova are getting too close when she finds a text on his phone which he sent to Nova saying "Goodnight, Beautiful".
Mal's wife then tell's him to cut contact with Nova and tell her they do not want the baby anymore and because Mal loves her so much, he does it. Nova is therefore left to bring up this child that she never wanted, which she is only carrying as a favour to Mal and Stephanie.
Years later, Mal and Stephanie's relationship is very strained as he resents her for making him give up Nova and his child, and Nova is getting on with her life, bring up her and Mal's son, Leo.
However, Leo develops a serious illness and is critically ill in hospital. The story then follows the actions of Mal and Stephanie and what they do in that situation, having previously cut all ties with Nova and with Mal never having met his son.
I won't say anymore about what happens in the story as I don't want to give too much away before you read it. What I will say is that this book is so well written and I believe that Dorothy Koomson's style of writing, and the things she writes about are just so different from the usual "chick lit". This is much deeper than so many books in similar genres but at the same time, it isn't too heavy that you feel drained after reading it, is has laughs to keep it lighthearted at the right moments and it leaves you feeling happy at the end, despite the emotional rollercoaster that the character has been on.
I think that this has been my favourite book by Koomson so far, I adored the others too but this story stayed with me for a long time and was one of those books which makes you really thankful for what you have. It puts things into perspective.
This is a really remarkable story, I love Dorothy Koomson's books and I am looking forward to her next one. I would recommend this to anyone!
In my opinion Dorothy Koomson is one of the best writers of women's modern fiction around. I have read and enjoyed most of her books and I definitely think that this latest one really excels itself. She is not afraid to write about strongly emotional and sometimes difficult subjects and in this book she writes about surrogacy.
This is no ordinary story about a woman choosing to have a baby for another couple though as there are lots of emotional twists along the way. Imagine tht your best friend is the boy over the road that you grew up with. Then imagine that you have been hopelessly in love with him for years even though it seems that your love is not reciprocated. Add to this the fact that your friend eventually marries someone else and when it emerges that she the wife cannot have babies they ask you to be their surrogate. Would you say yes to such a request? Well that is the situation Nova finds herself in and after much soul searching she agrees!
So there you are then - end of story and a happy ending all round! Well if you thought that you would be wrong becasue four months into the pregnancy, the couple change their mind and Nova is left to bring up the baby - her son Leo - on her own!
As this story unfolds, you cannot help but be hopelessly aghast at the turn of events and the treatment of Nova. You could be forgiven for thinking that Nova must be a weak pathetic character for allowing these people to treat her the way they do but she is not. She is incredibly caring, strong and sensitive and the type of woman that I would admire very much.
Mal (the lifelong friend) and his wife Steph are not totally despicable either. You want to hate them but you find they can't Steph is flawed but very fragile whereas Mal is torn between doing what is right and what he really wants to do!
The story starts in the present when crisis besets Nova when leo becomes seriously ill. The book moves between the present and the past in such a clever way that the story unfolds piece by piece to the reader. You learn so much about what influences all of their behaviour going all the way back to Mal's and Nova's childhood. There is a strong theme of mental illness as well because Mal's mum was subject to deep bouts of depression and so it seems is his wife too.
The story is sometimes told through Nova and sometimes told through Steph. Although I did occasionally find this confusing and had to think 'now who's telling this bit of the story?' I did actually enjoy this aspect of the book. I liked being able to view certain key events from both women's perspective and it was interesting seeing their different slants on events.
I think Dorothy Komson writes about relationships so well and this book has it all - unrequited love, abandonment, reconciliation- and saddest of all a relationship falling apart. this is a raw emotional novel which will really tear at your heartstrings. You will probably experience a whole range of emotions as you read it and you'd best have a box of tissues nearby too!
Nova and Mal have grown up together as best friends, their lives completely intertwined. When they grow up they remain best friends, and when Mal asks for Nova's help in giving him and his wife Steph the one thing they can't get for themselves, a baby, Nova puts her own feelings aside and agrees to help them. Steph is troubled and insecure in herself and her marriage to begin with, and always has felt threatened by Mal and Nova's close bond, so when she finds a text one night saying "Goodnight beautiful", from Mal to Nova, she issues him the ultimatum of losing her, or never seeing Nova or the baby she is carrying for them, ever again. Mal chooses Steph and cuts Nova and his child out of his life. Eight years later, Nova is now married, and Leo (Mal and Nova's son) is in a coma.
The book is told from both Nova and Steph's point of view, with them each having chapters of their own. The way the book is done shows the stories of both sides of the tale, both before the surrogacy, after, and now in the present, whilst Leo's life is hanging in the balance. It also manages to show the relationships between Mal and the two girls well, from both points of view, as well as showing Nova's marriage to her husband Keith, and her relationship with both her own and Mal's family.
The book is all about relationships. Not just in the traditional sense of the word, but the relationships between parents and children, friends, nemesis's, family etc. It looks into each relationship thoroughly and shows that things are far more complex in any relationship than to easily understand, but the book also shows that there can be understanding found in each of the characters.
This book was incredibly emotional and touching. Even from the plot synopsis, when you know that a child's life is hanging in the balance and that the plot centers around this, you know you are going to need to have a lot of tissues to hand reading this. It was not only this part of the story that was emotional though. I found myself crying for each of the characters for so many different things, from relationships, to just how they felt themselves and the after effects of their own actions. It was a very realistic touching look into peoples lives, and very realistic, so much so that it was heartbreaking reading all the things each of these people went through.
I absolutely loved the book, despite the fact I was largely bawling my eyes out throughout it. I know that may sound strange but I'm sure some of you will understand how I can love something that really did make me so upset. I constantly wanted to read more, I actually finished this within a week which is very quick for me. I just couldn't stop reading it. When I finally got to the end of it last night and put it down I felt absolutely drained. I kid you not I had been actually sobbing whilst reading it, to the point where my breath was catching and everything, not just a bit of a quiet cry. I've never cried so much before at a book. And yet I loved it! I did feel like I'd actually been through something really hard when I finished reading it, I was emotionally worn out. The character's seemed just so real and I had a rare case of feeling such empathy for each and everyone of them, despite their actions causing each other pain there was no taking sides for me here, I could understand where each person was coming from fully, and I felt like I was actually feeling their pain.
From the subject matter it is obviously going to be upsetting, and I really found it was so much more so than I had expected. I knew it would be upsetting, but perhaps not this much. I actually went and got my daughter out of her bed when I finished it, and carried her to mine, so that I could sleep cuddling her - it had affected me that much!
I had previously read My Best Friend's Girl by Dorothy Koomson, which I haven't reviewed as it was a few years ago and I couldn't do it justice but I will say it was one of my all time favorite books, and even that one had me crying sat by the pool on holiday. I thought My Best Friend's Girl made me cry a lot but it was nothing compared to this! After My Best Friend's Girl I was eager to read the next offering Marshmallows For Breakfast and I found it so disappointing so I then had it down to My Best Friend's Girl just being a one off I liked from this author, but now this one is just as good as it, and so much sadder. If you did like My Best Friend's Girl then you would no doubt love this, it deals with a lot of the same issues such as best friend's betraying you and that child/parent relationship that can be so touching.
It was easy to get into, from the very start I wanted to read more, and I literally steamed through this book. I wasn't trying to read it quick, I didn't actually want to, and I've been so shattered this past week from staying up so late reading more and more, but it was just so had to put down. If you had the time I imagine it would be a read it in one go kind of book. As for the ending, I can't say anything about it, without giving anything away, but I definitely wasn't disappointed in it.
It was by no means a "fun" read, but it was utterly gripping and so touching. It's one of those books that it is impossible to stop thinking about once I've put it down.
The characters are well developed and also shown in a good way to us, as we see both Nova and Steph's views on different characters, on themselves and on each other so you are not relying on just one persons view, and with both of their views you feel like you get a real view of everyone. Whilst some of them do things that are technically wrong, they all remain loveable throughout, and you can truly understand their actions, and you feel remorse for them.
The different characters by Steph and Nova aren't labeled as such, and are all written in the first person, but it is easy to understand who is talking each time straight away as they are so different and also talking about different situations etc.
Although this might sound strange, this will appeal to people who love an emotional rollercoaster of a book that will really effect them. It's by no means an easy read, and I can almost guarantee it will reduce you to tears on more than a few occasions so be prepared for the heartache you will feel reading it, but it is a fantastic book!
I recently got some vouchers from my lovely fiance to treat myself with, and I immediately knew that I would have to get myself some new books with them, especially as I had about 5 new summer chick-lit reads on my Amazon wishlist which were all released in the past few weeks! So I shot down to Waterstones and grabbed 4 of my favourites, one of them being "Goodnight, Beautiful" by Dorothy Koomson, an author I have read and loved before.
Nova and Mal have been best friends since, well, forever really. They grew up together and Nova thought they'd end up together as well. But when Mal met Stephanie, he fell in love and married her. The couple have a big favour to ask Nova - will she have a baby for them? Nova agrees but when the couple suddenly decide they don't want their baby anymore, Nova is left feeling frightened, alone and unsure she can be a single mother. Flicking from the past to the present day, Nova's son's life hangs in the balance, and so does Mal and Stephanie's marriage. Can both survive?
The blurb in itself suggests that this is going to be an emotional read, as are all of Dorothy Koomson's novels. The main idea focuses on the issue of surrogacy, which isn't an issue I've ever read about in a fictional book before. Surrogacy is something I know I could never do, I couldn't grow a baby only to give it away the end and this theme is well-explored by Koomson, showing us Nova's thoughts about the idea and how she comes to the decisions she eventually reaches. But the most important part of the surrogacy issue in this book is how it changes the relationships of those involved, right from finding out the surrogate mother is pregnant to the birth of the baby, and beyond.
I found the way that Koomson approached the whole issue was delicately done, and this really is a credit to her writing skill and indeed style. The whole background for the story was so well done that it really wasn't a shock to read about, and nothing too graphic was written about, the idea of the surrogacy really focussed on Nova and Mal's relationship, and the effect the surrogacy had on Stephanie, the outsider. Koomson really has a skill for writing well developed relationships between characters, and this was really a great element of the book. Koomson really knows how to engage her readers with an emotional storyline which has you hooked in minutes, and leaving you not able to put the book down again until its finished!
The characters themselves were very interesting too, with the main 2 characters of Nova and Mal being very detailed in background, emotion and story. The book flips between the present day and the past, right back to the childhood of the pair, and this allows you to get into the minds of both, particularly Nova as she is the storyteller for most of the book, and allows you to build up in your mind why things in the future (i.e. present day in the book) happen as they do. Mal's wife Stephanie was clearly meant to be the evil outsider, and right from the off I really didn't like her. How a woman can make her man choose between her and his child is beyond me, and for this I hated her instantly. Even towards the end when her past is fully revealed, I sympathised with her but didn't feel it justified what she had to done to Nova and Mal.
The writing style used in the book was quite interesting to me, partly because it left me feeling confused quite frequently throughout the book! Despite the fact that Koomson had chose to tell the story from both Stephanie and Nova's perspectives, so that's 2 storytellers, she's chosen to write in the first person without giving a name at the top of a new chapter to tell you who is narrating that particular section. I sometimes found I had to read almost 2 pages of a chapter before I got whether Nova or Stephanie were 'talking', and this left me frustrated and often confused. I always find first person narratives work best when there is only one storyteller as you can follow emotion and the story much better, but the 2 person first-person narrative just didn't work, it would have been much better in the third person!
Although I have found the previous Koomson reads of "Marshmallows for Breakfast" and "My Best Friend's Girl" quite uplifting, this one was quite the opposite, and I had a feeling all the way through that I might not get the happy ending I was hoping for. There wasn't much happiness throughout the book as a whole to be honest, what with unrequited love, mental illness, failed surrogacy and broken friendships being the main themes in the book. I was hoping for a small glimmer of happiness somewhere in the book, but there just seemed to be misery all around which left me feeling a bit drained after reading large chunks of the book. It's a shame Koomson didn't write just a chapter of something happy going on in the story, as this really lost the book a star on its rating from me. It was quite a depressing read, and I did find myself a bit teary at stages throughout, so it wasn't the light hearted chick-lit read I was hoping for! It is a very well-written story with interesting themes, great characters and a very easy to read style, but just a little depressing for me! I'd still recommend it to Koomson fans though, it is up to her usual writing standards. I'd give it 3.5 stars if I could, but I decided to round it up for writing and a good story.
ISBN: 978-0751539813. Published by Sphere books in August 2008. The paperback contains 448 pages, and is only sale from Amazon for a great price of £3.86 (RRP of £6.99) but is also on Waterstones 3 for 2 offer, or Buy One Get One Half Price in Borders/WH Smiths. For more information on the author, visit her website at www.dorothykoomson.co.uk.
Thank you for reading.