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I'm not adverse to a bit of chick lit finding its way into my reading stock of books and this was an enjoyable enough book from Catherine Alliott.
The central character in the book is Evie Hamilton, she is married to an intelligent and very caring Oxford university professor, her daughter is successful and dedicated to her studies and she enjoys a carefree life as she does not need to work as the family are comfortably well off. She is close to her brother and in particular his wife who she counts as her best friend, that is until one day her whole life is turned upside down as the result of a single letter landing on her hall floor. The story then focuses on how Evie copes with the news and the role she plays in helping support her family, I will not reveal what is in the letter so as not to spoil it for those who have yet to read this book.
There are some wonderful characters in this book, not least Evie mother who is a wonderfully mad character who wants to grow old disgracefully and is a source of embarressment for her daughter. Also Malcolm the gay book seller and Evie former employer is another intyeresting character. However the books rests upon the quality of the character that is Evie and she is a character that you grow to like as the story develops.
The story is told by Evie and it is a nice flowing story that really sucks you in as a reader and this was a book I found it hard to put down as I wanted to get to the end to see what happens.
There are some nice humerous touches throughout the book and a good plot. You can buy the book on Amazon for £1.01 which is a bargain.
I have just finished reading The Secret Life of Evie Hamilton by Catherine Alliott and really enjoyed it so thought I would share my experience of this book.
Evie Hamilton has what, on the surface, appears to be an enviable life. She is married to a kind, gentle, loving and intelligent man who is an Oxford university professor and has a clever teenage daughter who is keen to do well in her GCSEs and gets on well with her parents. Evie doesn't need to work and spends her time cycling into town to meet friends or visiting her brother and his wife (Evie's best friend) at their farm in the country. However, one day a letter arrives with news that shocks the entire family and threatens to tear them apart. Evie's world is turned upside down and she has to reassess everything that she holds dear.
**The Main Characters**
I liked all the characters in this book and found I could relate to all of them in different ways.
To start with Evie is ditsy, funny, unreliable in some ways, lazy, naive, kind and generous. As the story progresses and Evie has to cope with the fall out of the secret that is revealed she changes and matures and also realises that she needs to work and in fact enjoys working as it gives a focus to her life. I felt very sorry for Evie as she had to cope with a monumental life changing event whilst trying to help her husband and daughter come to terms with it as well and it made me think how I would cope under similar circumstances.
Ant is a calm, generous, kind and loving husband and father and his world is shattered by the secret that comes to light. He struggles to do the right thing by his family and his loyalties are severely divided and tested. I could sympathise with his situation and see his side of the story.
Barbara is even more ditsy than Evie, determined not to grow old gracefully she embarrasses Evie with her bohemian style of dressing and hippy lifestyle. However, she is also able to give Evie good advice on coping with her problems. I liked the way that Evie's mum added humour and fun to the story.
Is Eve's widowed step mum who is very good friends with her mum! Felicity is the opposite in every way to Evie's mum, being a university lecturer but finding time to get involved in charity work and keep a meticulous home. Evie is a little in awe of her step mum but is also very fond of her.
Tim and Caro
Evie's brother and wife run the farm that was Tim and Evie's childhood home. They make little money but work extremely hard to try and keep the farm and their lifestyle afloat. They have 2 children. At first I found Caro a bit annoying as she didn't seem to be a very good friend to Evie but as the book progresses it becomes apparent that she envies Evie's easy lifestyle as she is having to work so hard and Evie doesn't really appreciate this.
Evie & Ant's teenage daughter. Anna is the perfect daughter until the secret affects her life too and she then becomes more like the usual rebellious teenager. I felt sorry for Anna as she had to deal with a situation which was forced upon her through no fault of her own and as her parents are also struggling to cope, she really has no one to turn to. The author has written with good insight into the teenage mind, I relate her behaviour to my own teenage daughter.
Is Evie's gay best friend who owns the bookshop where she used to work. He is funny and sympathetic to Evie's problems but also gives her no nonsense advice whether she wants it or not.
I liked Malcolm as he adds colour to the story and is a good example of what a good friend should be like.
The book is written in the first person and so is from Evie's point of view. It follows her journey from finding out the secret through all the emotions that involves and how she sees it affecting the people she loves. As Evie alters and grows she makes changes in her life that have repercussions for her friends and family and so sub plots develop that enhance the story and link everything together.
I love Catherine Alliott's books as they are amusing and easy to read but also have a more serious side with messages about life. I feel that she gets the mix of humour and seriousness just right and her characters are life like and totally believable as are the situations they find themselves in. Some chicklit is very funny but the situations are barely believable and whilst I do like reading these books occasionally, I also like a story with a serious side to it and I feel that Catherine Alliott gets this absolutely right.
I got this book for a Christmas pressie of my mum and got into straight away. Definatly a great lay in the bath and read book. The storyline is quite deep in places but they still make it light hearted with the humor. Evie is a airy fairy kind of mum who doesnt do a great deal but still alwyas seems to be creatong havoc whether its to do with her daughter, husband, mum, stepmum and brother and sister in law. Parts of book, the part about the pony particually, remined me of a very similar time in my life which is always good when reading a book. Really made me chuckle. The blurb describes the book well and gives the right impression and the reveiws for newspapers ect were spot on. I would recommend this book to anyone who like a quick read book. Once you get going you can't stop which is what i love in a book.The characters are easy to relate to and imagine and it doesnt go on tangents which is good.
This is highly successful chicklit author Alliott's first novel since signing with Penguin books.
It tells the story of Evie Hamilton through a particularly eventful period in her life. She lives a somewhat idyllic lifestyle in Oxford as the wife of a highly respected and successful academic, Ant and the proud mother of a high achieving 14 year old daughter, Anna. Her brother and sister-in-law comparison are struggling to make a living off the family farm, trying to build a sideline in using the land for holding wedding receptions, with varying degrees of success. Evie also has a good relationship with her mother and her father's second wife (and widow) who both live nearby. She has a confidante in her former employer Malcolm who runs a struggling bookstore. One day, however, Ant receives a letter which threatens to destroy everything that the family have together. To say much more on that plot point would give away too much. Needless to say, it sends Evie on a spiral of confusion during which she has to reassess her own reality, the notion of comfort and happiness and leads her down some uncharacteristic paths of behaviour.
I had previously read Alliott's novel 'A Crowded Marriage a while back, and whilst I enjoyed it I found that it was overly long, a criticism that I would also level at this novel. Alliott is an author who obviously enjoys and takes time over her characters. They are allowed to develop rather well, and whilst this is commendable, some of them do lean a little too close at caricature at times. Also, in putting so much work into them - there is quite a lot of waffle which is not essential to the plot and instead can get quite tiresome. That is not to say that they are not easy to be sympathetic with however, although Evie herself is more than a little self indulgent and irritating! The plot itself is fine, and speeds up rather a lot towards the end. Although many of the developments can feel a little generic, there are some interesting twists as it progresses which work well. As a writer, Alliott is fluid, and it is not difficult to get sucked into the world that she creates, the dialogue is fine and the book as a whole is not difficult to zip through without really troubling you too much. Slightly more tragic elements of the story are handled sensitively.
This is a perfectly enjoyable novel. I do not think that it would stick in anybody's mind for very long. In future, I do think that that Alliott needs to reign her ideas in a bit - she could be a lot more concise in how she presents the story and the characters and the novel would not suffer at all.
This was one of my 'summer holiday reading' purchases this year and it cost me £3.99 from Asda, it is now £3.86 in Asda or £10.43 for the hardback version. I was thrilled when I spotted this as I love Catherine Alliott and wasn't aware that she had another book published.
Evie Hamilton, the book's main character, wife to rich and successful Ant and mother to Anna, lives a life of leisure and has a seemingly perfect existence. When a bombshell is dropped all that is set to change, Evie's world is rocked by a secret from the past and she doesn't know where to turn.
The book also includes many other colourful characters , including Evie's brother Tim and his wife Caro, all of whom have their own problems and issues to deal with, will Evie's news blow the family apart or will they be able to support each other through it???
This book gripped my attention from the start and ticked all the boxes of things that I like in a chik-lit style book - hilariously funny in parts yet serious and thought provoking in others.
The author has a way with words which brings the scenarios to life in the reader's mind. I could really imagine how Evie was feeling and at the same time trying to suppress her own emotions and hold things together for the sake of her daughter, secretly trying to cope with her own insecurities while supporting her child.
Despite tackling serious issues the tone of the book is generally light-hearted and in parts so funny that it really made me giggle (getting me some funny looks on the beach). Evie really doesn't seem to have much common sense and as well as laughing or crying along with her, I did cringe for her on several occasions.
I have read that this book has been criticised for its constant references to class, but in my opinion, it is not in a derogatory manor towards working class people, but to show Evie's, and other characters', naïve opinions which change during her personal journey throughout the book.
I have to say this isn't my favourite Catherine Alliot, basically it just wasn't as funny or as hard to put down, but saying that it is one of the best chik-lit novels I have read recently and one I would recommend.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Catherine Alliot grew up in Hertfordshire, she graduated from Warwick university and moved to London where she became a copywriter.
Her first novel, The Old Girl Network was chosen by WH Smith for their fresh talent Promotion in 1994, her other best sellers include Going to far, The real thing and Rosie Meadows Regrets.
I love the search the shelves in all good book shops for a book with a good title or an appealing front cover and something about the book that captures my attention. This book had all of these and so had to be one of my many holiday reads.
The Secret Life of Evie Hamilton by Catherine Alliott, I think, is her best yet.
Set in the academic Oxford, with the contrast of the rural countryside this book will appeal to all who enjoy an entertaining and compulsive read.
The main character, Evie Hamilton, appears on the surface to have it all. The perfect family life, the perfect house, everything she could want. Until her perfect world is rocked by a revelation!
The book follows Evies fight to keep her perfect life intact and in the process sees other revelations threaten her whole family.
For me this was a book that I found hugely entertaining and unable to put down. It is full of twists and turns in the story that leave you guessing what will happen next and questioning the behaviour of many of the characters. It is full of surprises and takes you through the mill of emotions from happiness to sadness and many others in between,
Having finished the book, it provided a heart warming ending with questions marks along the way leaving you guessing right up until the end. For me it was a perfect holiday read to escape into.
A fantastic story and thoroughly enjoyable to read!!!