It’s a real pleasure today to join the blog tour for Something to Live For by Richard Roper, published on 27th June by Orion, available as an e-book, in hardback and as an audiobook, with the paperback to follow in May 2020. My thanks to Tracy at Compulsive Readers for my invitation, and to the publishers for my advance reading e-copy, provided via netgalley.
If ever there was a book that showed why I so enjoy taking part in blog tours, I think this might be it. I suspect I’d never have picked up this book under my own steam, although the blurb was intriguing – well, until I saw the wonderful reviews that started to appear on so many other blogs I follow. And I’m just so glad I didn’t pass it by – I thought this book was just quite wonderful…
Sometimes you have to risk everything to find your something…
All Andrew wants is to be normal. He has the perfect wife and 2.4 children waiting at home for him after a long day. At least, that’s what he’s told people.
The truth is, his life isn’t exactly as people think and his little white lie is about to catch up with him.
Because in all Andrew’s efforts to fit in, he’s forgotten one important thing: how to really live. And maybe, it’s about time for him to start.
And there are a few names you might recognise who thought it was pretty wonderful too…
‘A magnificent read. Tender, funny, compelling’ Lucy Foley, bestselling author of The Hunting Party
‘Funny, moving and uplifting…I loved it’ Libby Page, bestselling author of The Lido
‘Heart-breaking. Hilarious. Life-affirming’ Holly Bourne, bestselling author of How Do You Like Me Now?
‘Funny, moving and thought-provoking – I loved this’ Clare Mackintosh, bestselling author of Let Me Lie
‘I completely fell under its spell. It pulls you in, makes you laugh and breaks your heart – in short, does everything that you want a novel to do. What an extraordinary debut’ Gill Hornby, bestselling author of The Hive
We’re now getting fairly used to seeing quirky and unusual females at the centre of our books – the Eleanor Oliphant phenomenon, I guess – so it was a rather refreshing change to encounter Andrew. He works for the council, visiting the homes of people who’ve died alone, looking for the means to pay for their funerals and any traces of friends or relatives. It’s a job he takes very seriously, donning his mask doused in expensive aftershave to mask the smell of decay, sifting through their belongings with the utmost respect – and if his search proves fruitless, he goes along to their funerals, ensuring they don’t depart alone.
And being alone is something he’s only too familiar with – although his work colleagues think otherwise, a misunderstanding he’s allowed to continue and can see no way of escaping from, he lives a solitary life surrounded by his model train layout, listens to his Ella Fitzgerald records (except one particular one), his only “friends” on an on-line forum.
Sound a little depressing? Just another man heading for a lonely ending? When Peggy starts work in Andrew’s department, he’s disgruntled and reluctant to engage with his new “shadow” – but despite problems of her own, she lightens his days, gives him a glimpse of how his life could be, and they begin to laugh together. And with her support and companionship, he begins to see how his life could change…
I’ll mention “depressing” just once more – but only to emphasise that this book is anything but. The way it addresses loneliness is immensely moving and poignant – Andrew’s own situation, but also in the glimpses of the lives of the dead, where relationships have often disappeared through casual neglect. But there’s also a rich vein of dark humour, perfectly delivered – the writing is quite wonderful, and this is a book that will make you feel so uplifted, while passing through so many extremes of emotion from heartbreak to sheer elation. Andrew himself is perfectly drawn – you feel his loneliness, his social awkwardness, his embarrassment – but there’s real strength in the supporting characters too, and in the way every interaction is written.
I also liked the way Andrew’s back story was revealed – his relationship with sister Sally, its legacy, and his more recent history which quite broke my heart. But there’s a real joy in his relationship with Peggy, as it grows and develops – she’s a breath of fresh air that he finds difficult to cope with at first, then begins to crave, as he grows to realise that she perhaps needs him every bit as much as he needs her. And the book’s ending is absolutely perfect – funny, moving, uplifting and everything it needed to be.
I really loved this book – it made me think, it made me laugh, it broke my heart and put it together again in the most glorious way, and it left me with a smile on my face that I never expected. As a debut, it’s quite exceptional – and very highly recommended.
About the author
Richard Roper is an author and editor. He grew up in Stratford-upon-Avon and now lives in London. Something to Live For (published as How Not To Die Alone in the US), is his first novel. It has been translated into 19 languages and TV rights have been sold to Expectation Entertainment.