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Lisa Jewell is an author who I can take or leave depending on the novel. Some of her work I have loved, whereas other novels have left me a bit cold. When I saw the front cover of this particular book, I was very attracted to the novel, with a striking picture of a tree on a greeny coloured background with a group of 3 characters at the base of this tree. The plotline also sounded quite interesting, so I was happy to give the story a try to see what my thoughts were.
This is an intelligent novel that looks at family dynamics and what makes us a family. The story is told from a few different perspectives, and while this technique can sometimes be a bit hard to follow, this felt very natural to me and I found it quite easy to establish the relationships between the characters as the connections were clearly shown to me.
Lydia Pike is a woman who is struggling. Approaching 30, she has just moved out of a flat share with her childhood friend after she fell pregnant. She is now living in a big house in London - a very sterile environment. She is surprised one day by an envelope that arrives in the post informing her that her dad was not her dad, and she was created using a sperm donor. She immediately wants to find out more about this background, particularly when she realises that she was not the only child created from this mysterious donor.
At the other side of London, Dean is living with his pregnant girlfriend. Tragically, she dies during childbirth, setting his life in a bit of a depressive swing. He's known about his parentage since he was 18, but it is only these recent events which make him seek some meaning to his life that he has never had.
Then there is Robyn - a smart girl who has just started university training to be a doctor like her sperm donor father. Her parentage has never been a mystery to her, and her parents are very supportive of whatever she decides to do. Her life has also been recently upturned through her meeting her soul mate and having doubts about going into this relationship.
Finally we meet Daniel, who is the mysterious French sperm donor. Unfortunately Daniel is in a hospice when he confesses about his children to his friend Maggie. Daniel wishes to meet these children of his before it is too late.
This sounds like there is a lot going on, but this story is weaved beautifully. Jewell has really excelled herself here, creating characters that are not perfect, but incredibly interesting and realistic. Despite their flaws, each of these characters has a need that is not being fulfilled, and it is clear that there is something that they are searching for.
This was at times sad, but also quite an uplifting novel finding out if these characters will find each other and their father before it is too late. This is the sort of novel that has you engrossed within the story until you know the outcome of the plot.
For me this is the best piece of fiction I have read from Jewell. She has taken a serious issue of sperm donation and how the recipients can trace the donor. She has tackled it in a way that is not only informative, but makes you question the moral issues around it when you consider the lives of these characters created in this way. At points this story shocked me, it entertained me, it left me thoughtful, and it made me think a lot about the concept of family and what it means to me.
I highly recommend this novel to fans of intelligent womens fiction.
Lisa Jewell is one of my favourite contemporary women's authors and I have loved reading all of her books. Her latest, The Making of Us is just as readable and compelling as all of the others, and I was hooked in to the absorbing storyline from the very first page.
The Making of Us is about a set of disparate people who have never met but who are intrinsically linked by a twist of fate - they all share the same father. This would not be so unusual were it not for the fact that their mothers had never met their father either; the reason for this being that they were all conceived through sperm donation. Their father, Daniel Blanchard was a French medical student who had his own reasons for making the donation and never intended to ever meet his children.
However, almost thirty years later, Daniel is dying and asks his friend, Maggie, to help him make contact. At the same time, Lydia, Dean and Robyn are all at crisis points in their lives for different reasons, and all make the decisions to contact potential brothers or sisters through the donor sibling registry that now exists. They ultimately meet and get to know each other and what follows is a heart warming and poignant narrative as these three characters start to come to terms with who they really are and also start to learn about the special relationships that can be enjoyed by siblings. But what of their father. Will they want a relationship with him as well, and even if they do - will it be too late?
As with all of Lisa Jewell's books, the characters in The Making of Us are very sympathetic and also very real. I really liked Dean, Lydia and Robyn and really felt for them as the details of their lives were revealed little by little. I also loved reading of how their relationships with each other developed and there were moments that made me laugh as well as others that had me reaching for the tissues.
The Making of Us is also a book that makes you think - about the many issues that are involved within the field of sperm donation. I think that some of the questions raised by and the emotions felt by the three main characters help to explore the issues very well.
As you can probably tell, I really loved reading The Making of Us and hardly wanted the book to finish. I will be eagerly anticipating Lisa Jewell's next offering and hope that it will not be too long a wait!
This review has previously appeared under my name at www.curiousbookfans.co.uk
having been enthralled with her book 'Vince and Joy' and disappointed by '31 Dream Street' I was unsure about whether to buy this new story. I read the synopsis about a man who donated his DNA and created four children he never knew and on his deathbed he sends a close friend to search for them so that he can hopefully meet them before he dies. It was the topicality of this subject ( since the law now states you can go looking for your biological parents at 18 years old ) that eventually made me decide to read this, I wanted to see how it would be handled. The story is very much about these children's lives with Lydia trying to recover from her traumatic childhood, Dean is grieving for his dead wife and coming to terms with fatherhood and Robyn wants to be a doctor just like her biological father. Each story is unique and how each has handled the way they have come into existence is unique too and therefore each character seems real and you care about what happens to them so I read this entire book in under 48 hours. There are several surprising twists and turns such as the reason why Daniel decided to donate his DNA. This subject has been dealt with sensitively and realistically here and whilst we all love some good twists and turns in a plot which you get a plenty here, the thing that makes this book really great for me is the way the characters are created with depth and in appropriate context so as to seem so real that you keep turning the pages to find out what happens to them.
Lydia, Robyn and Dean are three completely different people with only one thing in common. According to an online donor registry, they were all fathered by the same sperm donor. Some have known of their heritage for a while, others are just finding out, but none of them knew the other two existed. Until now. At the same time, their donor father's life is slipping away. His last wish is to know of the impact his 'noble' act may have had, the legacy it is leaving on the world. And in this information age it's not that hard to trace your roots, unless, that is, you're searching for people who don't want to be found.
I got the feeling that Jewell wasn't expecting her readers to see themselves reflected in Lydia, Robyn or Dean. The characters are all slightly extreme, much more than the average person on the street, and yet there was something about each of them that endeared them to me, even Dean who, to be quite honest, I would never be friends with in real life.
The story rotates view point with every chapter, with the siblings getting most of the talk time but auxiliary characters also getting their odd moment in the spotlight. I thought this worked extremely well, and the characters were sufficiently different that they never merged into one, but stood out distinctly. I especially liked the different characters' reactions to the same event, for example when Dean first saw Lydia's home and realised how completely different the two worlds they inhabited were.
I'd read some of Jewell's other books, and always found them perfectly alright, if not that special. I was expecting this one to be similar, so was completely blown away. It is a winning read from page 1 to page 390, that has you rooting for the characters and willing them into each others' lives...before it is too late. Though in theory the subject matter could be serious - the impact of finding out you're not who you think you are, or that you're not as unique as you might like to think, for example - the book manages to turn this around, and while it doesn't make light of the situation, it is still a light enough read. I honestly couldn't tell what was coming next, and broke my own rule of treating books well, breaking the spine so I could keep reading it at the gym rather than putting it down for the duration of my workout.
This is such a true to life tale. I loved the hysteria of Robyn when she thought she had broken the law; the pragmatism of Lydia; the hopelessness that Dean feels with his lot in life. It felt more like talking to a friend than reading a magazine's 'Real Life' section, as it's neither shocking nor too outrageous, and I think the slightly open end adds to this, as just as in the real world things continue to grow and progress rather than terminating neatly. As one part of the story ends, the opportunities for the trio are just beginning.
The one character with whom I was less taken was Bendicks. Though I understood what he brought to the story for the most part, showing Lydia another side of herself, I thought he was over developed as a minor character but under developed as a full on supporting one. He was there enough for me to expect more to happen with him, though I was pleased on Lydia's behalf with what occured at the end.
For the most part I enjoyed the pace of this book. There were times when I wanted things to hurry along, but the characters mirrored my impatience which of course helped. You could say it sped up too much in parts, but I would disagree. I think these sorts of discoveries are the kind that would pick up momentum as they go, and for it to be steadily paced throughout would be unrealistic.
This is a book I wouldn't hesitate to recommend. It is funny and dry and a little heart warming, without being sappy. It is a chunky story but kept me hooked throughout, and I'd love to see a 5 years later follow up with the same characters. Knowing Jewell's style, maybe that's not totally out of the question.
'The Making Of Us' was published in the UK in May 2011. The current version is the large (airport style) paperback with an rrp of £12.99 but Amazon is selling it new for half that, and also has an even cheaper Kindle version available.
This review first appeared on www.thebookbag.co.uk
In a hospice in Bury St Edmunds, a man called Daniel is slowly fading away. His friend Maggie sits with him every day; she holds his hand and she listens to the story of his life, to his regrets and to his secrets. And then he tells her about the children he has never met and never will. He talks of them wistfully. His legacy, he calls them.
Lydia, Dean and Robyn don't know each other. Yet. And they are all facing difficult changes. Lydia is still wearing the scars from her traumatic childhood and although she is wealthy and successful, her life is lonely and disjointed. Dean is a young man, burdened with unexpected responsibility, whose life is going nowhere. And Robyn wants to be a doctor, just like her father - a man she's never met. But is her whole life built on an illusion?
Three people leading three very different lives. All lost. All looking for something. But when they slowly find their way into each other's lives, everything starts to change ...
'The Making of Us' describes the coming together of Frenchman Daniel Blanchard's children as he lies dying in a hospice in Bury St Edmunds. Daniel donated sperm to a fertility clinic in London many years ago, but never told anyone. Now, as he nears the end of his life, Daniel tells his secret to his friend Maggie and asks her do one thing for him before he dies: find out something about the children he fathered.
Twenty-nine year old Lydia is the eldest of Daniel's progeny. Her life has changed inextricably from her troubled upbringing in a small Welsh town; nowadays she's extremely rich and living in a beautiful house in London. But money can't buy happiness, and Lydia is lonely and unfulfilled. However, thanks to a mysterious letter, she's discovered that the angry, bitter man who raised her was not actually her father. Some further investigation brings the news that she has siblings and Lydia wonders whether getting in touch with them make her life more complete.
Next is Dean who's at a low point in his life: he's only twenty one, but his life is a mess, and when his girlfriend Sky dies, leaving him to look after new-born baby Isadora, he doesn't think he's up the challenge. Can the support of his newfound sisters give him the strength to sort himself out and become a good dad to his baby?
The youngest of the trio, Robyn, has always known that her father was a sperm donor. If anything she's enjoyed the faint air of glamour that her French parentage lent her during her pampered Essex upbringing. She's determined to become a doctor like her biological father, and is off to study medicine at university. But something doesn't feel quite right as she starts this new chapter in her usually perfect life.
The characters were delightful, and their worries and feelings were completely believable. And, although the main protagonists are very different, and come from widely contrasting backgrounds, they do, ultimately, gel. Lisa Jewell uses alternating viewpoints incredibly well and it's lovely to see the characters through their siblings' eyes. I thought the concept of the trio coming together and tentatively trying to form a relationship was very original and made for a real page-turner. Naturally flawed, the characters were so lovable and vulnerable that I was moved to tears several times.
I adored all of Daniel's children, and Dean in particular. His actions at the beginning of the novel made me think he'd be my least favourite of the three, but he was frustratingly captivating and brilliantly written: he's 21, but acts much younger and he's so infuriating that you almost want to prod him out of his apathy and force him to pull himself together. It's wonderful to see how he comes out of his shell as the book progresses; a turning point being his support of Lydia on a trip to uncover the truth behind her mother's untimely death.
This novel has everything: an intriguing plot, wonderful writing, great characters and the ability to draw out of the reader all sorts of emotions. It contains some extremely funny moments, often concerning Lydia and her crush on her personal trainer, as well as very moving episodes, especially those set at the hospice. Lisa Jewell's works really seem to have taken a step up in recent years, and I think she can be now very firmly placed in the same league as authors such as David Nicholls and Rosy Thornton.
I've been a huge fan of Lisa Jewell for more than a decade and can distinctly remember reading my first book of hers. I was having a bit of a crap Christmas and was alone on Boxing Day. My Mum had bought me one of Lisa's early novels, One Hit Wonder, so I picked it up to have a read. I remember finding myself so invested in her character's stories that they seemed completely and utterly real to me. It's a quality I've found in Lisa's writing ever since and new novel, The Making Of Us, is no different, if not even more so.
The Making Of Us is a story of many people, unconnected and completely different to begin until it's revealed each has one thing in common. They share the same donor father. All are at complicated stages of their lives, Lydia, 29, has gone from rags to riches but is desperately lonely and struggling with her past, Dean, 21, has just become a father, but lost the baby's mother in tragic circumstances and is struggling to bond with his daughter, Robyn, the youngest at 18 has moved to London to study medicine, a path she was so sure of until she was on it. In alternating chapters we hear from each of them, as well as Maggie, whose close friend Daniel is terminally ill and has asked her for help to fulfil his dying wish.
Wow, this book is an emotional roller coaster right from the start. The plot is so brutally human and complex yet Lisa Jewell absolutely pulls it off. Once again her skill at creating completely believable, relatable and flawed characters is perfect. I love alternating viewpoints when done well, and in The Making Of Us all four narratives both stand out individually and intertwine to create a heart wrenching and uplifting tale of identity and family. Each chapter is titled with the name of the character we are hearing from, although I do think they have strong enough voices to let the reader differentiate anyway.
I loved all the characters in this book, though in particular Lydia who is so far away from myself in many ways yet surprisingly familiar too. I also really liked Dean, the young brother she discovers through a donor sibling registry, and the developing relationship between the two of them is gorgeous, awkward but touchingly beautiful all at once. What I always love about Jewell's characters is how layered they are, and how she isn't afraid to show their weak and at times pathetic sides-the ones we all have but hide from the world, making them all the more stronger for it. You get the feeling while reading that these people could be ones you pass every day.
The Making Of Us is at times very sad and touching, but also incredibly hopeful and positive for the future. By the end of the book you'll feel you've experienced these peoples journey, you'll be behind them all the way and will leave wishes them the best in their future. This is a novel not about a donor father and his dying wish, but one of identity, knowing yourself, finding a sense of belonging and the ties that bind people to each other. It's compelling from start to finish and I was completely absorbed throughout. I've never been disappointed by Lisa Jewell's work, and I certainly wasn't by The Making Of Us. With each new book I think 'this is the best yet' and that's how I felt after turning the last page. This is a book I highly recommend.
Published by Century May 2011
Thanks to the publishers for proving me with a copy for review.
Lydia, Dean and Robyn have no idea who each other is, yet they are all amazingly linked by one man, Daniel, laying in a hospice bed with his friend Maggie tending to him. The three are Daniel's children, yet none of them know it. On his death bed, Daniel decides to make contact and sets off a chain of events that is going to make enormous changes in all of their lives. Lydia still struggles with her upbringing, the death of her mother and the behaviour of her father, and this has carried on in to her adult life. Dean has found himself having to grow up very quickly after his relationship with Skye takes a very tragic turn, and is unsure of how to deal with it. Robyn wants to follow in her father's footsteps and be a doctor, but is she wanting to do it for the right reasons? What will happen when these three people realise each other exists, and how will it impact on their lives?
I haven't read a Lisa Jewell book for a good few years now, so when The Making of Us turned up, I was quite curious by the premise and thought it sounded like it could be a good read. I have to be honest and say I wasn't overly taken by the cover, the colour is very bold but does look a little basic - however I like the imagery used, it does look quite nice in that respect. It's quite a large paperback as well, and at 400 pages it's not a short read but it whizzed by really fast and before I knew it, I was turning the last page. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the book and it'll certainly make me want to pick up more of Jewell's books in future.
The idea of sperm donation is opened at the beginning when we join the character of Maggie whose husband can't give her a baby. She decides to go behind his back and get pregnant via a sperm donor, which does start the book with some questionable morals, I have to admit, but it isn't a secret right from the beginning. After that, we jump to the present day and meet up with Lydia, Dean and Robyn, all separately of course. We find out that Lydia is wealthy but very unhappy, Dean is from a rough upbringing and struggling with the reality of his new life and Robyn is a young student trying to find her feet. They're all very different but quite similar and I like the way Jewell made these characters people in their own right as well as the joining of them together via the story.
I don't really a know a lot about sperm donation, and while the book doesn't really go into a lot of detail about it, it is more about the impact it has on the people affected by it. Yes, there is a lot in this book which is coincidental i.e. the characters all living pretty closely, all happy about being fathered by a sperm donor, all knowing about it and all contacting the website about meeting up with other siblings in a short space of time, something which probably wouldn't happen in real life, but that's fiction for you, it allows for these things to happen in a nice way. The way it is dealt with in the book with the children and parents is good, its quite matter of fact and open, again, perhaps not how it would be in real life but it works well for the story.
It is an emotional book, and that continues right the way through. The childhood of Lydia is an emotional story and in conveyed throughout the book as such, and it certainly makes you warm to her because of what you know she has been through. I really liked Lydia, she has a good heart behind her stony exterior and the way she bonds with others in the book is quiet touching. Dean is someone I really loved, he's had a hard time of it and clearly thinks badly of himself, but you can see he is a lovely person and that something is going to bring him out of himself. Robyn is also a nice character, but I found that I didn't care about her quite as much as the other two characters, she had everything that the others didn't have and therefore there was less to sympathise.
There was a little bit in the book that made me slightly uncomfortable, something relating to Robyn and her relationship with her boyfriend that I felt was a bit odd and felt wrong which is why I've knocked a star off, I felt uncomfortable reading this part and while luckily for me, it was a relatively small part of the book, it just didn't sit right with me. Overall, I really enjoyed the reading of this book, aside from the bit I mentioned, and it certainly was an emotional and touching read. I liked the way the chapters alternated with who they followed but it was written in the third person, it just worked really well and made a pleasant reading experience. The characters were great, the story was touching and lovely and it was a well written and enjoyable novel. Highly recommended!
ISBN: 978-1846055744. Published by Century on 12th May 2011. RRP: £12.99. Pages: 400.
Thank you to the publishers for sending me a copy to review for http://chicklitreviews.com, where this review first appeared.
Thank you for reading.