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I had a copy of this book sent to me recently and after having a bit of a bad time recently I decided I needed something girly and easy to get into to escape from the real world so I picked this Cathy Kelly one off the shelf.
The book is based around the lives of people involved with Irish Department store Kenny's and how even without realising it there is fine string of connection between many of them that goes further than the store.
Firstly we have owner David and his wife Ingrid, who's two children Molly and Ethan have both left home but the worrying for Ingrid never stops especially over Ethan who is off travelling for a year. Ingrid is a high flying political Television journalist, and a loving wife to her husband David so when tragedy strikes the family Ingrid is inconsolable, even more so when she finds out secrets that her husband has been keeping from her and her family.
Charlie works in Kenny's and although she is one of the upper salespeople of a very popular collection within the store this is not good enough for her overbearing mother Kitty. Charlie has constantly been second best in her mothers eye, never as good as her older sister Iseult a popular Irish playwright. But when family secrets are revealed it gives Charlie the strength she needs to heal the rift in her damaged family and concentrate on her own growing family.
Natalie has an amazingly close family, her father who adores her, a step mother definately not of the wicked witch variety, and two step brothers who she loves to pieces. She is also falling in love with the wonderful Rory, who is adored by the family as well as Natalie. But something is missing from Natalie's perfect world, the mystery of her real mother. Who is she? what traits did Natalie get from her other than her looks?
The thread that links all of these women and the key to a few more mysteries besides is the somewhat magical Star Bluestone. As wonderful as the name suggests Star is from a family of bluestone women who have all been blessed with special gifts honed over the years to help not only themselves but also others, to heal, to overcome obstacles they never thought they could and even just to find peace. But what about her life and love, the love for a man who left her 35 years ago? Does she still harbour resentment for the woman he married or will she help her in her time of need?
I will admit to being a huge fan of Cathy Kelly's work and have not yet been dissapointed, but this one of my favourites so far. A little bit maudlin at times, with the issues being dealt with but all in all a novel about triumph over pain, and overcoming obstructions in your life that sometimes seemed impossible.
I always find that there are elements of the characters personalities that everyone can identify with in a kelly novel but maybe that is just me. I would have loved to have had a Star Bluestone in my life, especially in the darker times when I needed some inspiration. She's a breath of air in this novel and think that her being the clever link between all the women of the story is a great way to bring it all together.
A story telling us that secrets are not always as secret as they may appear and that keeping them has more bad sides than good. At least if you are armed with all the information you can decide how you deal with it if at all. I found the story a nice escape from real life and if that is what you are looking for then pick this one up today, even if only for the fabulous bits of advice at the top of every chapter heading.
This book is available from amazon for £7.00 and used for as little as a penny in the marketplace at amazon as well.
ISBN - 9780007240432
Once in a lifetime something happens that will change your life forever, and this book tells of those moments. It follows the lives of various different characters and is based around Kenny's department store - an independent store located in Ireland. David Kenny owns the store and most of the characters are people who work there. They all have different things to worry about in their lives, but as the book goes on, their lives becomes more intertwined.
David and his wife Ingrid have been married for over 30 years and have 2 grown up children. Their marriage is very strong, or so Ingrid thinks until something happens in which she finds out a lot of things about David she wished she had never found out.
Then there is Natalie, who is living with Molly - David and Ingrid's daughter. Natalie's Mum died when she was very young and the only reminder she has is the picture on her desk. Something happens which allows Natalie to find out more about her mother which sets a big part of her at ease, as she has been itching to ask her Dad for information for so long.
Charlie is also another character who has quite a major part. She is a valued worker at Kenny's, but she has lots of problems with her mother. She has never been able to impress her mother and everything she does is not right. Charlie has an older sister who can do no wrong in her mother's eyes and she is sick of being compared all the time. Something happens in Charlie's life which makes her see that she needs to stop trying to impress her mother so much and needs to be her own person.
There are also a few minor characters who don't have many parts, such as Marcella - Ingrid's best friend, who has not got that special person in her life and who craves to have some company.
And then there is Star Bluestone. When you read the back of the book you get the impression that the story is all about her, when really it's not. But Star keeps the story together and fills in parts that would have been hard to explain without her. She doesn't have much of a part, but the part that she does play is very important.
I really enjoyed this book and couldn't put it down. There was quite a lot of things that I could relate to and I really became quite attached to the characters. Marian Keyes writes on the back that it is like having a gossip with your best friend, and it really is. There were things that were said in the book that I thought only I felt, but the fact that Cathy Kelly wrote about them means that other people feel them too.
To start with the chapters were quite long and each one was dedicated to each of the different characters above. Then as things happened in their lives, they became more entwined with each other; the chapters got shorter and there were more than one character in each chapter which helped it pick up the pace.
The characters are built really well and start off with everyday mundane things in order for the reader to understand them and find out who they are. What I have said above about all the different characters might seem confusing, but the book is written in a way that you don't forget who is who and what is happening.
There are quite a lot of time shifts in the book and it covers quite a wide time frame. The first part of the book then skips forward 6 months and carries on. Then at the end there are quite a few flashbacks into the main characters lives. When Natalie asks her Dad about her mother the story goes back to when her Mum was her age and there is a small mini story which explains everything Natalie wants to know. But then this happens again for 2 of the other characters, which I felt was a bit unnecessary.
What I really liked was the introductions to each chapter, with little quotes and well known sayings, that summed up that chapter and also I can imagine a lot of readers nodding in agreement to them. I certainly did.
This book is very well written and tells of a really good story that lots of readers will be able to relate to. If you want something light hearted and true to life then this is the book for you.
***The Plot and Characters***
As this is one of those books that follows the lives of several interlinked characters, I'm going to outline the plot and characters together to try to make it less confusing!
Ingrid - Ingrid is a television presenter whose world is turned upside down when her husband David dies. Ingrid is understandably devestated and as a likeable character, it's difficult not to feel lots of sympathy for her as she struggles to control her grief.
David - The owner of Kenny's department store, David's death affects a lot of people. His death happens quite early on in the plot, so he's more of a background character who has a knock-on effect on other characters. For much of the book, I was indifferent to him but with certain revelations as the book progresses, I became less involved with him as a character and felt more sympathy for Ingrid.
Natalie - She is the flatmate and friend of Ingrid's daughter, Molly, and is struggling with not knowing anything about her late mother and trying to keep her alcoholic friend Lizzie on the straight and narrow. She is quite a bubbly character and seemed older than her age but was likeable.
Charlie - She works at Kenny's department store and lives in the shadow of her sister Iseult, a successful playwright who their mother adores. She is happily married with a son, but her relationship with her mother is obviously a strain on her life as she writes about it in her diary. She was yet another likeable character who I couldn't help but feel some sympathy for as her mother seems to put on her a lot.
Star - She has past links to David and Natalie, and has a gift that has been passed through the generations. She doesn't feature for a lot of the book but ties some things together towards the end.
As you might expect from a book that doesn't focus on one specific character, it is written in the third person and flits between the various characters. I sometimes find that this doesn't allow you to feel involved with the characters enough but this wasn't the case here. Cathy Kelly's excellent characterisation makes you feel in the thick of the action.
I have read several of Cathy Kelly's books now, and enjoyed each of them. Her books always seem to draw me in and this one is no exception. Each of the main characters is easy to get behind and each has their vulnerabilities that made me want to root for them. The book flowed at a good pace that wasn't too fast or too slow and seemed just about the right length to explore the characters in depth without dragging on too long.
Being a Cathy Kelly fan I was really looking foward to her new book Once in a Lifetime. I was going to buy the book but it is quite a hefty hardback (the paperback not being out until September this year) so in the end I ordered the talking book (CD) from my local library. When it arrived I couldn't wait to get started. However, I was a little disappointed as it took me quite a long time to get into. There are a lot of characters and the first one introduced is Star Bluestone, who didn't really capture my imagination at first. This is very unusual for Cathy Kelly books as like, Maeve Binchy, she normally manages to grab my attention with the first couple of pages. I continued with the book though and gradually, by about half way, had got into the story and the characters were starting to take shape. It all centres around a department store called Kennys which is owned by David Kenny. All the characters have a connection with Kennys, either working there or, as with Ingrid Kenny, being married to David. They all have a different story to tell but there is a connecting thread and Star Bluestone holds the key to help the characters come to terms with aspects of their lives.
I particularly liked the character of Ingrid and could identify with her in many ways but some of the others were harder to get to grips with. There were some shocks within the story which I didn't see coming which made it interesting but overall I was a little disappointed, it didn't live up to previous Cathy Kelly books that I had read.
I do tend to stick to authors I know and love, but am always open to recommendations of new books and writers too. When my mum suggested a year ago I read a Cathy Kelly book, I tried her latest 2008 release and while I enjoyed it, I didn't think it was anything special. However, when I saw this being advertised as her "best-ever novel", I was intrigued to see if it'd live up to the hype and so set about getting a copy from the library. It arrived and started reading it, and was hoping that it was going to be a good read, but sadly I have to say I wasn't right.
The town of Ardagh in Ireland loves its local department store, Kenny's, run by David Kenny. But things to do with the people aren't all rosy. David's wife Ingrid, a politics TV Presenter is juggling her family life and work life, but she soon unearths a secret that will shatter her world. Kenny's employee Natalie is starting to question her father about her long-deceased mother, and finds out some shocking revelations that rock her. Charlie Fallon, a make-up guru at Kenny's is in despair at her rocky relationship with her mother, but loves her own husband and son. She's determined to make it right with her mother, but are they both too stubborn? And finally, Star Bluestone who provides tapestries for the store, holds the knowledge to help all these women in their hours of need. Star knows how important it is to these women to find closure... but will they let her provide it?
Cathy Kelly is a very popular Irish author, and amazingly this is the 11th book she has released. She's been writing since 1997, but since I was only 11 years old then, I've only just really got into her work, my first Kelly novel being her previous release, Lessons in Heartbreak (reviewed of course). I wasn't overly impressed but hoped that this one would be more enjoyable for me. When I read the blurb, I wasn't too sure as it sounded like a lot of characters and would therefore require a bit more concentration that I liked to give a book but still I was willing to give it a real go and head into it with an open mind. It was a rather chunky book, so was one that would take me a while, and consequently give me a chance to really get into it.
When I started the book, it really wasn't the modern tale of a department store that I had expected straight away. Instead, we were introduced to white-witch Star, and I really struggled to get into the book at all. If I am honest, I did think about putting it down because usually I don't persevere with it because I have so many others to read, but I decided to give it a chance for some reason. When the book got going a bit more, I found the read sort of flowed better and I very much liked the characters that were being introduced, especially Ingrid and Natalie who were interesting, modern and had great stories to read about. Although she appeared in the book's prologue, we don't see all that much of Star in the book (good for me because I didn't like her) but you can see her importance as the book progresses, which is all due to Kelly's writing talent.
After doing a bit of research on her other novels, it seems Kelly's novels are all about women and their relationships, be it with their husbands, mothers or other family. She's stuck to what she knows here, but perhaps too much because when discussing this book with my mum, she told me it felt too much like something Kelly has written before - fine if it's one of your first Cathy Kelly books like me, but for my mum and nan who are long-time readers, they feel a bit cheated and weren't all that convinced it was a good, fresh story. The story was well written, don't get me wrong on that part, but as with all chick-lit to a degree, it was quite predictable as to how it was going to progress. One strand of storyline kept me guessing because not enough was revealed to guess the answer, but it wasn't enough to really keep my interest in the book at its peak, and at times I felt I was just reading it to get to the end as quickly as possible.
The characterisation in the book was very good - Kelly really gets into the hearts of characters and puts on paper perfectly what you expect them to be feeling. There aren't all that many relationships in the book to build on, mainly as they involve characters that aren't around in the book, but the few that are there are realistic and enjoyable to read. Kelly writes in the third person, making it easy to switch between the amount of characters in the book. As mentioned, my favourites were Ingrid, the strong, business-savvy TV presenter and Natalie who is without a mother. Charlie annoyed me in ways but I did feel sorry for her, and as I said I really didn't like Star, although I can't put my finger on why. You would expect an author of Kelly's history to write well, and yes she does, but the book just didn't grip me like so many young and more vibrant writers do these days.
If I'm honest, I don't think I'll be looking to pick up another Cathy Kelly book in a hurry. My mum has told me to read some of her earlier books because they are far better, and I will when I have the time, but I won't hurry to get her new ones in the future. It is a well written book with good, realistic characters but for me it seemed to drag on and on, without an end in sight. There didn't seem to be an aim to reach and without that, the story sort of tended to amble on and on, often dipping into the past of certain characters to reveal some new storylines but even they weren't enough to renew my interest. For fans of Cathy Kelly, you'll probably still want to read this and may enjoy it, but if you're not a fan, don't rush to read this, there's much better out there.
ISBN: 978-0007240418. Published by Harper Collins in March 2009. The hardback is 372 pages long, with the paperback due out in September 2009. RRP: £14.99.
Thank you for reading.