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Review of 'The Wish List', a novel by Martina Reilly.
I am reviewing the paperback version of the novel, published by Sphere (21 Jan 2010), 384 pages, ISBN 978-0751542721, cover price £6.99.
The Wish List is set in modern day Ireland. The book is really two story lines in one well woven novel.
The central characters are Allie and Tony Dolan, a thirty something married couple who on the surface, seem to have it all, a good relationship, two little boys, Mark and Owen and a close knit extended family. They have their share of ups and downs like most couples, however, when Tony's actions jeopardise their family and compromise their lifestyle, drastic measures have to be taken. Allie sends Tony away and takes the desperate action of a downsizing house move in an effort to resolve the problems Tony has created. Allie and the children's move brings them into contact with Jeremy Lyons, a crusty, anti-social widower who is their new next door neighbour.
Jeremy does not like children very much and is dismayed when football loving Mark kicks his ball into his garden. Jeremy is stout with a bushy white beard, in an effort to deter Mark from becoming a nuisance, tells the boy that he is Santa Claus, in the hope that the boy will behave himself. This lie has repercussions which mean Jeremy finds himself in a situation far beyond his control.
Jeremy Lyons is living a half life and has done so since his wife passed away many years earlier. Like many elderly people, he hates change and despairs of the way the modern world has altered. Jeremy has two grown up sons, the younger is a popular children's television presenter, 'Jolly Roger', Jeremy's elder son, Joel, is married with children. The relationship between the Lyon brother and their father is strained to say the least.
Both the Dolan and the Lyon families have their demons from the past and for Allie Dolan, the future is at times, too frightening to contemplate. As the novel progresses the lives of the neighbours become entwined and although things can never be quite the same, Allie and Tony Dolan are reconciled.
Meanwhile the Lyons brothers and their father for reasons that do not become apparent until the climax of the novel have a much harder time trying to overcome their differences.
The plot is a fairly simple one, but there are enough twists and turns in the novel to keep the readers interest and the final revelations and events which lead to the climax of the story line were not as I had anticipated.
==About the Author==
Martina Reilly is married with two children. She is a qualified drama teacher and taught drama for fourteen years. She has also worked in journalism, but now concentrates on her writing. She still teaches drama in her spare time.
Martina Reilly also writes as Martina Murphy and Tina Reilly. She has written fiction for adults, teenagers, screenplays and newspaper/magazine articles. A full bibliography can be found on her website:-
==Cost and Availability==
My copy carries the cover price of £6.99, however this novel can be purchased online from various sources.
www.amazon.co.uk £5.49 new or from 10p used.
www.ebay.co.uk From 99p
==My Thoughts and Conclusion==
The Wish List is the first novel I have read by this author, therefore I had no preconceived thoughts about the book. To be honest, based on the image on the front cover, I probably would not have bought this book for myself, it has a typically 'chick-lit' type image of a woman lying on the grass with crossed legs in the air, not awfully inspiring to my mind! The book actually came into my hands via my daughter who was in the process of moving house and in her de-cluttering efforts, brought me two large carrier bags of books she no longer wanted, The Wish List was among these books.
I found the novel totally absorbing, the characters were extremely well drawn and although the 'new neighbour befriends lonely elderly person' scenario is by no means unique, the plot was gripping and a little different as it twisted through the story, revealing hitherto hidden depths within the characters. This is not your usual chick-lit, airy fairy novel, it deals with some pretty deep and emotionally charged events, all of which meld together beautifully to result in a well written, entertaining yet thought provoking read. I particularly liked the way the author wrote about very emotive issues in a down to earth and sensible fashion. I would imagine readers who were actually personally affected by these problems, may well feel inspired to seek help in resolving their own difficulties after reading The Wish List.
I do not wish to spoil the plot for others so suffice to say that The Wish List has a little of everything from marital problems, jealousy, bereavement, drug addiction and bullying to the emotions faced by an adult 'coming out' to an older relative.
In short I would definitely recommend this novel to others and I look forward to reading more from this author myself.
Thank you for reading,
© brittle1906 September 2010.
My review may be found on other review sites under the same user name.
The cover picture provided by Dooyoo is different from my copy.
Allie and Tony have had their ups and downs throughout their marriage, but nothing prepares Allie for the awful shock she gets when she answers the door one day. Suddenly, the future, the home and the life she shares with Tony and their two sons Mark and Owen are uncertain and Allie doesn't know what to do. Allie's eldest son Mark is inquisitive and wants to know what is going on with his dad, but isn't convinced by their fibs. He befriends the man who lives next door, Jeremy, and is pleasantly surprised by his secret - Jeremy is really Santa Claus! Mark confides his every worry in him but Jeremy is worried about to handle this messed up little boy. Is Allie going to realise that Mark is more troubled than she thinks, or is the worry about Tony all consuming, and will it destroy their family for good?
I've been a fan of Martina Reilly's book ever since I read her older work under the name of Tina Reilly quite a few years ago now. I also passed on several books of hers to my mum who also loves Reilly's work now, so she is definitely an author who appeals across the age ranges. The wish list is her fourth novel under her more serious moniker of Martina Reilly, and is out in large paperback, with the UK smaller paperback due out in January 2010. Reilly always deals with serious themes and issues in her books, and The Wish List is no different, covering topics from drug abuse to the effect this has on young children.
The book begins with Allie being unaware of her husband Tony's drug addiction, but Reilly chooses not to go into too much detail about the discovery and the immediate efect this has on her family. Instead, we skip forward to Allie and her 2 children moving house because they can't keep their old house anymore, and we see the knock on effect Tony's addiction has had not only on Allie, but on their sons' too. Allie is the main character in the book, and the one we follow throughout the journey of Tony's recovery and the family trying to come back together agan despite everything. She's a character I warmed to straight away - as a mother I could empathise with her horror and anger at her husband lying to the family like this, and Reilly portrays Allie's range of emotions so well you almost feel them with her.
Even though Tony is the character you are supposed to dislike, I did feel slightly sorry for him. Yes, he is a drug addict but Reilly brings across his sense of hopelessness and weakness incredibly well, and I did sympathise with him a bit even though I certainly didn't expect to. One of the characters who I felt was best written was that of Allie and Tony's young son Mark. Reilly manages to get into the head of a young boy perfectly, and it was quite hard at times to read how much the atmosphere between his parents was affecting Mark, and its definitely a wake up call for parents when you read this sort of thing. The neighbour Jeremy was also quite a funny character at times but I just couldn't warm to him and I felt his background story dragged out a bit and I did lose interest in it for a while.
The book themes are quite dark, and this makes it quite difficult reading at times. It's hard to read about Tony's addiction, and while Reilly doesn't go into graphic detail about his drug use, there is still the effects on him, the emotions he goes through, and the counselling sessions that are mentioned are also quite difficult because it really does feel at times like you are a fly on the wall and it is quite hard to read. I found that the book was very dark, there wasn't a lot of happiness at all and therefore I did feel slightly bogged down in it and sort of dreaded picking it up because I knew nothing funny or happy was going to happen. However though, I was intrigued to see how it would all end, and Reilly does send you down quite a few paths before coming to a conclusion which I enjoyed.
While I don't think that this is Martina Reilly's best book, it's still a captivating read and once more she proves that she is not afraid to tackle hard hitting subjects in commercial fiction, and does this very well indeed. The research that goes into a book like this doesn't really bear thinking about, but you can tell Reilly has done this well because you can believe every word is written, and you feel like you are in the middle of Tony and Allie's angst and despair at times. The characters are well written and sympathetic despite their circumstances, and the pace of the book was just right. There are a couple of upsetting scenes in there that surprised me but they do set the scene and sit well in the book so I can't complain about those. A mature read, and very enjoyable. I'd recommend it.
ISBN: 978-0751542721. Published in January 2010 by Sphere, the paperback contains 384 pages. RRP: £6.99
This review was written for http://chicklitreviews.com
Thank you to the publishers for sending me a copy to review.
Thank you for reading.