I read this within 24 hours. As the first sentence in a review of a 350+ page book, that says quite a lot. I barely put it down – in fact, I think my copy will have my breakfast crumbs firmly embedded in the pages now…
This is Denise’s first novel – and I admit I am a little behind as it was published in early 2016. Late to the party – again! But I’m glad I turned up eventually.
The story focuses on Harper, a 53 year old with a rich husband living the high life in Cheshire with the ladies that lunch. So I wasn’t convinced I would relate, but I thought I’d give it a whirl…
Thing is, this isn’t so much about the superficial bits of Harper’s life – other than showing how truly superficial they are. It’s a study of relationships, love, abuse, bullying, self-esteem, mental health and independence. It explores how the family dynamic impacts on each member and reinforces a particularly important lesson in life – that you should never lose sight of who you really are.
Harper makes a huge sacrifice for love. Or at least, for what she wants to believe is love. And this story shows that abuse doesn’t have to have physical signs. That bullying doesn’t have to involve fighting. In fact, what’s important in this story is that the person experiencing the bullying and abuse may not even realise it. And when you paint a smile on your face, nobody else need realise either.
How many of us have sacrificed parts of ourselves for somebody else? I know I have many years ago. I look back and think, perhaps it was because I was young? Perhaps I was naive. But it’s not just about being young and naive, it’s far more complicated. It’s often impossible to see it when you’re on the inside. When you believe that this is the best that love has to offer. When your self-esteem has hit an all time low. Sometimes, you can’t even see that, either.
I don’t want to give too much away, but I think what is also incredibly thought-provoking in this book is the impact that relationships can have on the wider family. And how within a family, it isn’t simply a series of individual relationships, but a bigger, whole relationship with individual parts and bonds that all react to one another – both positively and negatively.
It’s about love. Who you truly are, who you love, and allowing a little love for yourself, too. It’s not about neutralising one for the sake of the other. It’s about combining and accepting all the best, and worst, bits of each other, of a family, and making something really special. It’s the only way to thrive. Compromising who you are is a strong indicator of something toxic creeping in…
But can Harper see that? Give it a read and find out.
If they could see me now which is published by Little Brown is available to buy online – click here to order.