I'll Be There for You (by Louise Candlish)

I've read and enjoyed a few books by Louise Candlish in the past year or so, so was pleased to receive another for my birthday a couple of months ago.

'I'll be there for you" is the story of two sisters. Juliet, who we meet first, works for an advertising company. She sometimes clashes with the boss, although she's also had a brief fling with him, but has some very good friends as colleagues. She has plenty of ideas, but tends to feel stressed rather than relaxed, and is generally more interested in after-work drinking and smoking; her self-esteem isn't great anyway, and as we discover fairly soon she's still grieving from the loss of her fiance Luke a year previously. Much of her self-destructive behaviour seems to come from an attempt to hide from her deepest feelings - and we only gradually learn just why her loss was so difficult in many ways.

Juliet used to be very close to her older sister Hannah, who is a calmer, more motherly kind of person. But Hannah is now married to the slick Michael whom Juliet doesn't like or trust. Michael is known as a womaniser, but he's quite rich, and Hannah likes to live comfortably. So somehow, in their drastically changed circumstances, the sisters have drifted apart. There's a younger sister, too, who is still a student, but she doesn't feature all that much in the book.

As life comes crashing around Juliet and Hannah's ears in various ways, they learn a great deal about themselves and the people who care for them. Hannah makes a new friend whose circumstances are about as far away from hers as possible; I liked Siobhan very much, and found her perhaps the most interesting person in the book.

I thought it was well-written, with plenty of interesting and believable subplots, and a mostly satisfactory ending. Some moving sections and some lovely people. My main irritations were that the lifestyles of the main characters were so far removed from anything I've ever come across that they didn't feel real; one-night stands, all-night drinking sessions, and perhaps most unbelievable of all, the way that so many otherwise intelligent people kept reaching for cigarettes: something that seemed entirely irrelevant to the plot. There was rather more bad language than I'm comfortable with, as well; again, this is something I simply don't hear in real life, so it grates somewhat when I read it in books.

But all in all, I enjoyed 'I'll be there for you' and its thoughtful explorations of sibling relationships. Quite thought-provoking in places, with some deep issues covered in sensitive ways. Recommended. Available on Kindle as well as in paperback.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 28th June 2011

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