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**To the moon and back**
Ellie is hopelessly in love with her husband Jamie, and is left understandably devastated when he is killed in a car crash. She knows eventually she must try to move on with her life, but how can she when the only man she has ever truly loved was cruelly snatched away? When her famous actor father in law Tony (Jamie's grieving dad) offers her a fresh start by letting her live rent free in a new swish flat he has purchased in Primrose Hill, North London, she jumps at the chance.
Having moved into the new flat and become friends with her enigmatic neighbour - former pop star Roo - Ellie feels trapped in her old work place with people treating her as though she is wrapped in cotton wool, so when an opportunity arises to work for successful businessman Zack Mclaren as his PA she decides to take the job. Zack instantly feels drawn to Ellie but there's no way she could ever feel the same way after everything she's been through..
Throw in to the mix Jamie's guilt ridden best friend Todd, beautiful artist Martha and Zack's time share dog Elmo and all these help to mould the story of Ellie trying to move on with her life.
I've become a big fan of Jill Mansell's books since my best friend discovered her books last year and keeps passing me them on once read. I would say that 90% of the time I thoroughly love each book with only the odd exception when I found one slightly mediocre.
I was given this to read along with 'Falling For You' and 'Walk In The Park' - both Mansell books and having really enjoyed Walk In The Park I wasn't sure either of the other offerings would be anywhere near as engaging but boy was I wrong. I took both books away recently on holiday and having read the blurb on the back I decided to read To The Moon And Back first. I have to admit I don't usually like books that can have a mournful tone and often opt for 'frothy' chick lit as I can take my thoughts away from life's trials and tribulations so the thought that this book could potentially be quite depressing didn't endear me too much.
On reading the first chapter we meet both Ellie and husband Jamie. I instantly liked both of these characters as there was something very normal and down to earth about each of them though I was mentally preparing myself for what was about to come.
I really felt for Ellie when Jamie was killed and the whole storyline is very bittersweet. I found the character to be very wholesome, genuine and sweet with a good sense of humour and though she is obviously going through a heartbreaking period she doesn't come across as all doom and gloom which I had initially thought she may have. We see Ellie starting to pick up her life and although Jamie actually features throughout the book (conjured up by her imagination) this is done in a lighthearted and even humorous way. There were times though I felt my eyes actually starting to cloud a little but what I did love about this story was Mansell kept it as light hearted as possible (given the circumstances) and the fact Jamie was present all the way through the book was a nice touch in my opinion.
The story featured heavily around Ellie though the other characters all had quite prominent parts with Zack being instantly likable from the word go. It was easy to conjure up an image of a handsome young entrepreneur trying his best to get Ellie to notice him and he seemed too good to be true at times. Once we got used to the fact that Ellie was now a young widow I felt that the reader wasn't allowed to feel too much pity for the character as the book became quite comical after the ( slightly depressing ) opening chapter and the story focused on the positive rather than the negative throughout. Ellie is likable and sweet and so easy to imagine being a real person and as well as feeling complete empathy for her throughout you also wanted to push her in the right direction as some of her decisions had me literally saying out loud 'No!' (to the amusement of my husband).
I loved the way the story panned out and although some may say it is slightly predictable I still loved it nevertheless. It's one of those story's that really affects your way of thinking and I suddenly found myself becoming protective of Ellie despite her being fictional.
**What I liked**
Ellie was a fantastic character throughout with her strong will and humour which instantly won me over. I instantly liked her and really felt for her throughout though she wasn't written as someone to be pitied which I also appreciated. I loved her father in law Tony and imagined him as being some silver haired fox and was willing his own story line that followed throughout to have a happy ending. Roo features heavily throughout and I'll concentrate on her separately in a moment but what I will say is when we are first introduced to her she was exciting and fun. I found just about all of the characters to be easy to like and apart from the odd niggle about Roo there was no one I hugely disliked.
**What I didn't like**
Roo chooses the wrong man to have a relationship with early on in the book and he is there basically I felt as a hate figure as all of the other characters are simply just too nice. We meet Roo herself fairly early on and I did like her at first as she seemed lively and fun and just the sort of person that Ellie needs in her life but around halfway through her character seems to dramatically change. I found myself very uninterested in the goings on of Roo's life after this and actually dreaded turning the page to find half a chapter dedicated to her. For anyone that has already read this book I'm sure they will understand what I am talking about.
I felt Todd - Jamie's best friend - was only half hearted portrayed throughout as he could have been a much stronger character in my opinion. That said, I felt for Ellie as she held it against Todd for the accident as he was with Jamie that fateful night despite it being the fault of only an icy road. The tension for quite a while was apparent as she blamed Todd for turning up early, if he had only have been late as usual the road would have been gritted by the time they set off and I understood to a point where this deep sated hatred by Ellie was coming from.
This isn't the type of genre of chick lit I would have usually gone for, and if I had of read the blurb in a book shop I would have shied away from it opting for something far more chirpier from the offset rather than with slight morose cloud hanging over it.
I felt the book portrayed the heartbreak and anguish of Ellie on just the right level - it had the reader understanding her pain but didn't dwell for too long on the inevitable grief that was to follow where as it could have easily done so. The book follows the story of rebuilding the Ellie's life rather than focusing on the past and even though Jamie does appear regularly it's not done in a depressing or macabre way.
I'm really glad I did read this book, even if it brought a tear or two to my eyes, as it turned out to be one of the most enjoyable Jill Mansell books that I've read in a while and I'd go as far as to say one of her best in my opinion. The move to use a death as the main basis and aftermath of the story was quite bold and handled with the utmost sensitivity throughout.
I would highly recommend this book and even though it was originally leant to me I can see myself buying my own copy as it is one I know for a fact I will want to read again in the future. The story is easy to read given the subject at hand, and the 407 pages flow with ease and give an overall feel good factor that Jill Mansell books seem to emit.
Having had some hit-and-miss experiences with Jill Mansell books in the past, I was in two minds about whether to buy this one as while I've enjoyed some of her work, I've found others boring or tedious. As it happens, I was in Sainsburys trying to take advantage of a 2 for £7 offer and having found one book that I definitely wanted to buy, I was scouring the limited selection on the shelves for another to complete the offer as that book would have worked out quite expensive on its own. Needless to say, this was the only book that I felt I might enjoy so into the basket it went and I crossed my fingers that it would turn out to be one of her better books.
Ellie and Jamie are the perfect couple and Ellie is blissfully happy in their marriage. That is, until tragedy strikes and she's forced to confront life without him. Faced with the need to move house and start life afresh, will Ellie be able to start again? Zach thinks that he's found the girl of his dreams but is she as out of reach as she seems?
As you can probably tell from my very short synopsis in the previous paragraph, there's not a lot of plot to speak of. Jamie's death happens very early on in the plot but we don't actually follow Ellie through the grieving process as you might have expected would happen in a plot like this. Instead, we meet both Ellie and Jamie before the tragedy happens but after his death is confirmed, the story skips forward by quite some margin and although Ellie is definitely still grieving for her husband, it's obvious that some time has passed since the accident. Because of this, the focus is on Ellie rebuilding her life - leaving the home they shared, finding a new job and making new friends.
Both Ellie and Zach were likeable and down-to-earth characters and Ellie's methods of dealing with her grief seemed realistic too. That said, they didn't make for particularly fascinating characters though and had it not been for the introduction of Roo, I think that getting through the book could have been quite tedious. Roo is a character that Ellie meets during her new start and she's a much stronger and more lively character than them and really starts to liven things up. That is, until she undergoes a bizarre personality change that isn't even remotely in keeping with the character that she's been up until this point and which frankly, I thought let things down. I had started to find the book quite enjoyable and not as slow and tedious as I thought it was going to be after the first few chapters but this was a bit of a stretch to get my head around and just seemed weird. Another good character is Tony (Ellie's father-in-law) who like Roo, has a side-story of his own going on alongside Ellie's and Zach's.
All in all, it was a decent enough read - nothing ground breaking but a perfectly acceptable book to read in the bath or on the bus. If I'm being entirely honest, I wouldn't recommend that you rush out and buy as I've certainly read better and more riveting books but if you're a fan of Jill Mansell you'll probably enjoy it.
When Ellie Kendall loses her husband Jamie her entire world collapses. She throws herself into her job, and spends her evenings trying to keep her ever-decaying flat together. Until her father-in-law Tony insists she looks after his house in Primrose Hill. There, Ellie meets the enigmatic Roo, who brings some much needed vitality into Ellie's life. When Ellie gets a new job working for Zack McLaren it's the start of a new life almost. But will Ellie ever be able to let herself fall in love again, especially when Jamie was the love of her life. And what of Roo, with her very own secrets. One thing's for sure, Ellie's new life in Primrose Hill will change her life in ways she's never known.
I'd like to let it be known that I love Jill Mansell. I've read the majority of her earlier novels, devouring them all a couple of years ago. However since her 2008 release An Offer You Can't Refuse I haven't read a Jill Mansell novel. I have the books on my shelf, but I just never found the time to manage to read them. I received a proof copy of To The Moon and Back, though, and I was desperate to end my Jill Mansell drought and I thought this was the best one to start with as it sounded very intriguing from the synopsis. And while I did enjoy the book, there were aspects I didn't particularly like and it was only an average read for me.
To The Moon and Back, with the greatest of respect to Jill Mansell, has a fairly average main plot mainly because there isn't much to it. Yes, Ellie is still trying to get over Jamie's death but even that's a stretch because after Jamie's death the book skips fifteen months so we seem to miss the entire grieving period. So I would assume the plot is meant to be Ellie's new life in Primrose Hill which comprises of a new flat, a new job and some new friends. It just didn't really excite me, and it really didn't hold my attention as much as I would like. To top it all off, Ellie's new friend Roo is the kind of female I'm coming to hate: having an affair with a married man, believing he's going to leave his wife. It's so cliched and if I've read it once I've read it a million times and it's gotten to the point where any sort of plot line that goes in that direction, no matter how vaguely, annoys me.
As for the characters, I must admit it took me a while to really take to Ellie as there just wasn't much there for me to work with early on. Don't get me wrong, I liked her a lot I just didn't feel connected to her at all. Despite my reservations and annoyances over Roo's plot, she was in fact my favourite character. She added some sparkle into the book, well, she did until she went on her mad mission to atone for her mistakes. I liked Zack McLaren and bar Roo he was a favourite, but again, there wasn't enough substance to him. Despite dying in the first few pages, Jamie is fairly prominent in the book and from what I can tell he seemed like a very nice person, he seemed wonderful in fact. Jamie's dad Tony is also heavily featured, as he and Ellie get on well and Tony was the realest character to me (which is funny, since he's an actor!). Mainly though I just felt disconnected to them all. I wasn't entirely fussed about what they did or didn't do and that's really the kiss of death with any novel. You have to be invest in the characters otherwise it's never going to work.
Now it might sound like I'm totally hating the book, I didn't, not at all. It was a decent enough effort and I enjoyed the fact that although Jamie died in the first few pages he is with us throughout the book as Ellie keeps him alive in her mind. The writing is classic Jill Mansell and is always a joy to read but the plot and most of the characters just didn't really grab me. I feel awful for saying that I didn't enjoy the book, as Jill is one of my favourite authors but this book didn't grab me or speak to me like previous books of hers and I found myself getting bored as the book neared its conclusion and I couldn't wait for it to end because I just wanted to get it over with. So although the book itself was readable enough, the plot and characters didn't really speak to me like I would have expected them to and I just feel a little let down by To The Moon and Back. The potential was there, but I just didn't feel it was utilised to its best ability.