As most readers of my reviews will know, I read a lot of books and not that long ago, I had a dry spell where I was working a lot of overtime and just didn't even have time to pick up a book at all! So when I finally got back to more normal working hours I started to fly through a lot of my books that I had been buying and storing up and this was one in particular that I had just seen in Tesco and bought because it sounded quite good. I had never read anything by this author before so it was a bit of a gamble but, one I am glad I took!
Helen Warner is an English author and this is the first book she has written. She is also the head of daytime TV at Channel 4 where she is responsible for shows such as 'Deal or no Deal' and 'come dine with me'. Before that she worked at ITV where she launched the popular daytime show 'Loose Women' and was editor for 'This Morning'.
Four women all with different views of the wedding they have been invited to attend......there is Anna who is our main character and the heartbroken Ex of Toby, the man about to say 'I do' to somebody else. How will she cope watching the man who she still believes is the one marry another woman? Then there is Clare, best friend to Anna and the one who watched Anna and Toby go from being in love to never speaking again. She just wants to be there for her and help her through what she hopes will be a final way for Anna to let go of her feelings for Toby.
Ella is the woman that wanted everything that Anna and Toby had back in college and made sure she got it no matter what. Now married to somebody who she doesn't really love and not sure what to do with herself, she is there to make herself feel better and seems to think she will see Anna arrive with a gorgeous husband not realising that Anna never moved on from Toby. Lastly we have Rachel, the Bride to be. Having only met Anna once, she is worried about her big day and whether it will all go to plan but, she is also worried that her doubts are more deep routed and she cannot shake that feeling away.
How will all four women cope with the big day and will everything go to plan?
I really liked how different the author had made each person - I found the main character of Anna to be easy to like due to her nice personality and her good nature. I think this had to be this way as in contrast, Ella was quite a horrible person so I felt that it made the storyline more interesting. Clare is somebody who doesn't want a man in her life and so far has never had a relationship with somebody who she has felt that strongly for so sometimes it is hard for her to fully understand the way Anna feels about Toby after all these years but, as her friend, she is always there for her and I like that about her. She also shows her compassionate side to others too and I think is a good match to have as Anna's best friend.
Rachel, as the bride to be and the girl that the other three don't know is also an interesting person. She is nice enough and although we don't actually get to see an awful lot of her compared to the others, she comes across as a decent person who just wants to be happy. I like that the author gave her bits that were relevant even though the story isn't really about her rather than just have her as a side character altogether.
My book was bought in Tesco as part of the on-going offer they have of two books for £7 making this brand new book just £3.50. I felt this was well worth the money especially as the RRP is £6.99. You can still get this in various shops and online and at the moment, it is priced anywhere between £4 - £5 mark so I do feel I got a good deal especially as I enjoyed the book so much.
I really did enjoy this book and was glad I took the gamble on it and bought it. It took me a while before I managed to get around to reading it and even before I made a start on it, the author had brought out a new book! I think what made me enjoy the book so much was the different stories going on across the four women and how some events you saw from all angles and how each person can view these differently and take different opinions from it. I liked that each woman had such varying personalities that made them interesting and overall for me it was an enjoyable read right from the beginning. It didn't take long to get into and I soon found I didn't want to put it down.
I would definitely recommend it and after enjoying this one so much I know I will be getting her other book as the only reason I didn't when it came out was that I hadn't read this yet and wanted to see what the author was like first before I took the plunge - so now I know, I will be buying next time I spot it whilst out!
Anna has been in love with Toby for most of her adult life, despite them breaking up ten years ago. Her world is turned upside down when she receives an invitation to his wedding to Rachel. Her first reaction is to refuse to go but she's convinced to attend by Clare, her best friend. Around the same time, Clare makes a discovery that will change her own life forever. Rachel should be looking forward to her big day but she's can't shake the feeling that something isn't quite right in her relationship. Is Toby still in love with Anna? And then there's Ella. She was instrumental in Toby and Anna's break-up and it's fair to say that she's got a lot of issues. Will the wedding definitely go ahead? And what will happen when the four women come face-to-face there?
Despite the title and plot summary, this book isn't all about weddings. It's true that Toby's wedding is a central focus but this is actually only for around half of the book. The wedding happens mid-way through and after that, the plot switches to the knock-on effects. As well as the present day scenes (which are set in 2010), there are also plenty of flashbacks. We delve back into how Toby and Anna met, their previous relationship and Ella's meddling in it. This helps to set the scene but at this point, I feel I should mention the narrative style. The present day plot is written in the third person but in a present tense style. I can't say that I've come across this very often. Usually when I read present tense, it's in the first person so it's a little unusual but in this case, it works well and it feels rather like we're going along with the characters for the ride. As you'd expect, this reverts to past tense during flashback scenes.
I liked all of the main characters, even Ella who I was probably meant to hate. The flashback scenes helped a lot with this as it really helped to develop Ella's character and take her beyond how Anna sees her. Without this character development I'm sure I would have absolutely hated Ella for her role in the break-up and Anna's misery thereafter. It's hard not to feel sorry for both Anna and Rachel in different ways and for different reasons. Anna has survived the last ten years but has never found anyone to match up to Toby while Rachel is terrified that Toby is marrying her for all the wrong reasons. Deep down she can't help but feel that something is very wrong but she's desperate for a baby and feels it's better to hang on in there. While Anna is supposed to be the main character, all of the women are great characters in their own right.
Anna's world is rocked when she receives an invitation to her ex Toby's nuptials - Toby was The One, The Love of Her Life, The One That Got Away. Will attending his Big Day finally give her the sense of closure she so desperately craves? Or will it only re-open old wounds? Clare is Anna's best friend, the person who was there for her when she and Toby split all those years ago. But little does Clare know that Toby's wedding day will also change her own life for ever. Ella is a classic femme fatale. She loves men and leaves them without a backward glance. But the one person who's never fallen for her charms is Toby. As he prepares to get hitched, is it too late for a last-ditch attempt to win his heart? Finally, Rachel is the blushing bride-to-be. This should be the happiest day of her life. So how come she feels nothing but a terrible sense of foreboding?
Helen Warner's debut novel RSVP is one I've been wanting to read since I first heard about it. It sounded like a really amazing novel, and that if done correctly it could very much launch Warner as a must-read Chick Lit author. But what really sold the book to me was the cover. It's a lovely light blue set out like a real wedding invitation with the title in an embossed font. It's hugely appealing (I'm a total sucker for a pretty cover and RSVP's cover is one of the best I've ever seen). It looks even better in real life, with a chocolate covered ribbon as a bookmark. I couldn't wait to dive in, and for the most part, I enjoyed the book but I did have a few niggles.
Despite looking and sounding very wedding-y, RSVP isn't chockful of weddings as you might expect. Although a wedding does play a major role in the novel, the major focus of the novel is pre-wedding and post-wedding with only a few pages dedicated to the actual wedding itself. But because the wedding in question changes a lot of things, it does make it an integral part of the novel, because without the wedding we wouldn't have our story now, would we? The wedding in question is that of Toby and Rachel, who after being together for six years have now decided to get married. After making a pact with his university friends, Toby then invites his ex, Anna, who hasn't exactly gotten over him despite the fact they haven't been a couple for a decade. Along with her best friend Clare, they decide to attend the wedding in the hope of getting some closure. Also invited is Ella, the girl at the center of Anna and Toby's break-up, who is now unhappily married to Max. It's a brilliant plot, and I was definitely wondering what was going to go down at Toby and Rachel's wedding. And it didn't let me down.
The first half of the book is very impressive, it pulled me in like a good'un, but after the wedding fiasco, I found my interest dwindling a little bit. During the first half of the book there are numerous flashbacks, explaining how Anna and Toby met, got together and eventually split up and how Ella was a part of that. But in the second half, there are no more flashbacks, and it was mainly full-steam ahead in present day 2010. Don't get me wrong, there are still plenty of good plot points, Ella and Clare's stories in particular kept me hooked but the Rachel/Anna/Toby triangle was a bit drab. I liked the fact the big dramatic part of the novel wasn't saved until the end but was instead put in half-way, but all that excitement kind of leant the end of the Rachel/Anna/Toby story to a bit of a flat conclusion. But Ella's story in particular kept me gripped, which I have to admit surprised me because for the first portion of the novel I couldn't stand her.
The characters are interesting, to say the least. Despite the fact that I found Anna to be a very warm and likeable character, I did question how she could still be hung up on somebody a decade later. Maybe it is possible, but it's the kind of thing that seems improbable. I did like Anna, though, very much and through the flashbacks I could see why she was so devoted (though I still didn't 'get' it). Clare was probably my favourite character, she's not as central as Anna and doesn't get as much page-time, but I liked her and I liked her plot. Like I said in my previous paragraph, I didn't like Ella for the first half of the book, but she grows up a lot as the novel progresses and in the end I couldn't help liking her. She has a bit of a tough time, realises the error of her ways and all that, and eventually there is a light at the tunnel to show she can be a better person. As for Rachel, I expected to hate her, I really did, for 'stealing' Toby. But, actually, she was a fantastic character. I'd have even liked to have seen more of her. There aren't many male characters in the novel, just Toby, James, Max and Marco and all were very well written.
RSVP is written in a very peculiar way. The bulk of the novel is set in 2010, and for that, Warner has gone for a third-person-present-tense narrative which, I must admit, I found strange. I love the present tense narrative, but I don't believe it's right to use when writing from third-person. It didn't mesh well with me, and it would have been a lot easier to use past tense, it must have been a total pain to make sure it was all (excuse the pun) present and correct. Not only that, though, but because we had flashbacks, they were told in past tense, so the alternative tenses could get annoying. I found it easy to switch back and forth, I just didn't like the use of the present tense. The novel is very easy to get into though, and up until the wedding fiasco, it was well on course to become one of my favourite novels. However the pace slowed and I did find that it dragged a little after that, particularly where Anna was concerned. As far as debut novels go, it was enjoyable and I did want to see how it was all going to pan out, particularly for Ella and Clare. I would recommend the book, and I will be reading Warner's next novel, I was just a bit disappointed with the lack of pace during the last 200 pages.
Anna has never really gotten over her broken relationship with Toby, so when she receives an invitation to the wedding of Toby and wife-to-be Rachel, she is devastated and convinced her life is over. Her best friend Clare is on hand to help Anna snap out of her maudlin state of mind, and convinces Anna that it would be closure for her to attend the wedding. However, neither woman counts on their nemesis Ella de Bourg being present - after all Ella was the one who ruined everything between Toby and Anna. Anna's miserable, Rachel is nervous and unsure she's doing the right thing, Toby loves Rachel but is sure he loves someone else too, and Clare just wants someone to love. Is happiness for all of them too much to ask, or will the wedding bring out a few truths that will shatter their worlds forever?
I love reading debut novels - there is something about having no expectations or pre-conceived thoughts about an author when you pick up a book, and a debut novel is usually one that can deliver both of these things for me. This is Helen Warner's first outing into the chick lit world, and a corker of one it is too. From it's bold and beautiful turquoise cover to the riveting time-hopping story within, everything about RSVP draws you in and keeps you wanting to read until you've turned the last page and are then disappointed when it's over. That's the kind of debut I love, and that is what Helen Warner delivered here for me.
The book interestingly flits between the present day in 2010, and the back story of Anna and co, to various points in their life that are very important to the story. I was unsure at first when I began to read how easy it would be to keep track of the different stories and how it would work towards the end of the book, but my fears were unfounded and in the end, it worked out perfectly. Warner differentiates between the two time periods by writing them in two different ways which I liked. The present story is written in present tense, whereas the back-story is written in past tense, and does make it good for telling the difference, however I don't think it would have been a problem anyway, it is easy to tell the pieces of the story apart.
The characters of the book are very well written, and all have an important part within the story that develops well with the pace of the story. Anna is our main character, and the story circles around her. In the present day, Anna is heartbroken and still in love with Toby despite the years between their break-up, although it isn't necessarily clear about the circumstances of their break-up. We can see the contrast in the Anna of new and the Anna of old too, and this gives the reader an interesting perspective when you read about her. Her best friend Clare was a great character too - very straight talking and a brilliant friend to Anna, both in the present and past - everyone needs a friend like Clare in their life and I enjoyed the ups and downs of their friendship, especially when Clare's personal circumstances change a lot.
Rachel and Toby were interesting characters for me. I couldn't really warm to either - Toby because of the way he was treating the women in his life, whether it was intentional or not, and Rachel because although I feel she was meant to be portrayed as a strong woman, she didn't really come across as that and I struggled to sympathise with her. Either way, they were both great for the story, and slotted in perfectly with the other characters. They both seem very real, and I like it when characters are believable. The odd one out really is Ella de Bourg, she has a bit of a set-to with the characters in the past, but then seems to spend the rest of the book pretty much alone in her own separate story. However, I really did feel so sorry for Ella, and it seems she is a very misunderstood person, and Warner certainly writes her with a lot of sympathy.
Considering this book is entitled RSVP, there aren't really a lot of weddings in there that are relevant to the title! However, the book had me gripped as I was so keen to find out what was happening with Anna and Tom, and the latest twists and turns in the worlds of Clare and Ella! Combine these characters with a great story, some fantastic minor characters in the book that hold it altogether, it creates a very readable and interesting book. I loved the way Warner wrote this book, playing with the tenses in her writing, and flitting between the past and present, weaving a story that only becomes clearer the more you read on. It was easy to read, an absolute joy from start to finish, and felt very realistic - not everything was rosy with all the couples all of the time, and I can definitely recommend Warner's debut novel, it was fantastic.
ISBN: 978-0857201218. Published by Simon and Schuster on March 17th 2011. Pages: 400. RRP: £10.
Thank you to the publishers for sending me a copy to review for http://chicklitreviews.com
Thank you for reading.