07/02/2010

The Peacock Emporium (by Jojo Moyes)

It was nearly a year ago when I first came across Jojo Moyes, and her book 'Night Music' which I very much enjoyed. So I determined to get hold of some more of her novels.

I received 'The Peacock Emporium' for my birthday last year, but it's taken me this long to start reading it as my 'to-read' shelf has been so crowded. But finally I started it, about three weeks ago. Yes, it took me this long to finish it, mostly reading a chapter or two before I went to sleep.

The book opens in 2001 when a midwife in Buenos Aires involved is in a delivery which leaves a bittersweet taste at the end. The next chapter goes back almost forty years, when a young woman called Vivi is going to a dance with her friend Douglas. That confused me so much that I wondered if I was reading the same book at first!

Vivi's story continues for a few chapters, as we get to know Douglas and his family rather better, and although I was vaguely wondering about the relevance of the first section, I pretty much forgot about it.

Then a new section starts, which takes us back to 2001, and a young woman called Suzanna Peacock who is feeling frustrated in life in general. She plans to open a shop - the Peacock Emporium of the book's title. It soon becomes apparent what connection Suzanna has with Vivi, although there's a lot of back story which is only gradually filled in, but I was in the dark about the midwife in Buenos Aires for quite some time.

Reading just a chapter or two at night, I found the book muddling, as I wondered how on earth these diverse threads would meld together. It didn't inspire me to keep reading, or to pick it up in the daytime. But gradually, almost imperceptibly, I found myself drawn more and more into the story, which is full of believable, and mostly likeable people.

There are a few caricatured minor characters too, but that's not a bad thing; there's a sad and horrific incident part-way through the book so it was a good thing to have a few lighter and somewhat amusing incidents involving lesser characters.

I wasn't sure I was going to like it at first, but by the end could barely put it down. The writing is crisp and very readable; the story cleverly bound together, even if the viewpoint and decade switches are sometimes a little confusing. The filling in of the past works extremely well, leaving most ends neatly tied without excessive detail or explanation.

All in all, I'd recommend it.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 7th February 2010

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