05/07/2015

Me and Mr Jones (by Lucy Diamond)

I hadn’t heard of Lucy Diamond, but Amazon recommended this book to me based on my general reading preferences; after reading the reviews, I added it to my wishlist and was given it for my birthday last year. It’s taken me over a year to pluck it from my crowded to-be-read shelf, but I’m glad that I finally did so.

‘Me and Mr Jones’ is a decided ungrammatical title. I’m not obsessive about grammar, but I did feel a slight twinge of irritation every time I looked at it, which is perhaps why it took me so long to start reading. However, it’s a minor gripe. The book itself was very enjoyable, once I got into it.

It’s a bit confusing at first, as there are quite a few characters. Lilian and Eddie Jones are in their 60s and have been running the family home as a bed and breakfast for some years, now. But they’re getting tired, and have less energy, and - rather worryingly - Eddie seems to be losing his touch in a lot of ways. But they don’t just want to sell up. Ideally, they would like one of their three sons to take over.

So Lilian calls a family gathering over Sunday lunch. Hugh, their eldest son and his wife Alicia turn up, with their three children. They have good jobs and have no wish to move, nor to run a B&B; however, by this stage we’ve discovered that Alicia, who has been a model wife and mother, is going through a bit of a mid-life crisis as she approaches 40. So she’s determined to be a bit more forthright and to make some time for herself.

David, the middle son, also turns up with his wife Emma. Lilian would really like them to take over the B&B. David is currently unemployed and quite depressed about it, and Emma could probably run her business from anywhere in the country. But Emma has her own worries: she’s desperate to have a baby, and nothing seems to be happening.

Then there’s Charlie, the irresponsible youngest son, who doesn’t even remember the lunch until one of his brothers sends him a text. He then arrives with a new girlfriend, Izzy and her two daughters, informing his mother that they’ve already eaten... and sparks fly.

I thought the family lunch was a great way of seeing the family together and beginning to understand some of the dynamics. The story is told alternately from the viewpoints of the four women concerned, each of them married to (or, in Izzy’s case, getting to know) one of the Mr Joneses of the family, and I thought it worked very well. The characters and names were sufficiently different that I had no trouble remembering who was whom, or what their particular problems and worries were, and by the time I was a few chapters into the book, it was very difficult to put down.

It’s not that there’s much plot; there were one or two surprises, and one shock towards the middle of the book, but most of what happened was quite predictable. However, that didn’t matter at all; I enjoyed the glimpses into the lives of this diverse but nonetheless close family, and the way their relationships developed in the course of the novel.

The writing is perhaps a tad informal in places, but the pace is good and on the whole I enjoyed it very much. There are some quite difficult themes, both past and present from the point of view of the story, and they were handled sensitively. There’s some bad language, but I didn’t think it was too excessive; I was relieved that all bedroom doors are firmly closed.

Alicia’s children, particularly her sons, are a bit shadowy; I’d like to have got to know them better, but I very much liked the relationship between Izzy and her daughters. And in the last few chapters, I found myself deeply moved a couple of times.

I’d recommend this highly to anyone who enjoys character-based women’s fiction.  Available in Kindle form as well as paperback.

Review by copyright 2015 Sue's Book Reviews

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