08/11/2007

Sweet Nothings (by Trisha Ashley)

I have never come across Trisha Ashley before; nor is this the kind of book I would normally read. But the blurb on Amazon UK sounded reasonably interesting, so I was sent it by 'The Bookbag' for reviewing.

'Sweet Nothings' is told from the point of view of Lizzie. She lives in the village of Middlemoss with a philandering and ever-distant husband, and a delightful teenage son who is shortly to leave for university. Lizzie's main passion is cooking, something she shares with her husband's cousin Nick. She also writes books about village life, and assists in various local events, including a slightly bizarre 'Mystery Play' written in dialect.

As the book opens, Lizzie is seriously considering leaving her husband, although she hasn't much idea what she will do afterwards. Events take over, and she finds herself drawn more and more into village life. Someone dislikes her and tries to get her accused of negligence (and worse), but she is always supported by her loyal friend Annie.

At first, I found the sheer volume of characters rather overwhelming and had a hard time remembering who was who. The main ones quickly emerged, however, and the author manages to make the minor ones reasonably memorable, albeit somewhat caricatured, so that wasn't a problem for long.

I also found the style a bit annoying to start with. The writing is very informal, written almost as if Lizzie were chatting to a friend, with lengthy sentences full of irrelevancies. It changes from past to present tense and back again several times, too, which struck me as odd. However, I soon got used to this and by the last part of the book was no longer noticing the tenses; I felt as if I were beginning to get to know Lizzie, and thus hearing her voice.

The book poked fun at village life and customs and the upper classes in particular; unfortunately this didn't really appeal to my sense of humour, so I found these sections rather surreal. I thought I would find some parts moving - such as when Lizzie leaves her son at university - but I didn't.

Nevertheless, the book definitely grew on me. I read a few chapters each night for a week, and while I wasn't racing to pick it up to find out what happened, I often read rather more than I'd intended, as I found myself caught up in the story.

Good for a holiday read, or a wet weekend, perhaps, when you're not looking for anything challenging.

My slightly longer review of 'Sweet Nothings'at The Bookbag can be found here.

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