It’s such a pleasure today to be helping launch the blog tour for This Year Maybe, the latest book from Liz Hinds, and sharing my publication day review: independently published, it’s now available for kindle and in paperback via Amazon in the UK and US. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for the invitation and support, and to the author for my advance reading e-copy.
Liz was my guest here on Being Anne back in July 2019 (you’ll find the post here), but then, in September 2019, I thoroughly enjoyed her standalone novel The Dog-walking Club. You can read my review of that one again here, and it really was the cherry on the top when I met Liz at the Narberth Book Fair – and found she was every bit as warm and lovely as her book.
You’ll notice that This Year Maybe is the second book of Aliss’s Adventures, and – although I really wanted to, I just haven’t managed to read the first, This Time Last Year. I do notice that Liz (on her website) is offering a free e-copy if you sign up for her newsletter – if you’re one of those people who doesn’t like to start with the second in a series, you might like to take up that offer. But I thought it might be good to see how well it works as a standalone – and it worked just perfectly.
Alison and David have been engaged for so long that even Alison’s mother has given up asking when, but it’s second time around for both of them and they’re not in any particular hurry.
That said, Alison is beginning to wonder if living with her has put David off the idea of marriage so when he suggests they set a date she is delighted. But that date is six months’ away and a lot can happen in six months – especially if you’re Alison!
‘My son’s been arrested, Great-aunt Millie’s fallen in love, my best friend suspects her husband of having an affair, and I still need to lose weight. How on earth can I think about getting married?’
I finished reading this book yesterday afternoon with a massive smile on my face, sat at my keyboard to write a review… and just didn’t have a clue where to start. I’m not someone who’s often lost for words, but I really couldn’t come up with any that would capture the whole experience – which, I have to say, was one I massively enjoyed. So let me start with “quirky” and “different” – and if you like a nice tidy linear narrative, this really might not be the book for you. Another word I could maybe use is “chaotic” (but in a good way!) – while the basic story is about Alison’s decision to finally get married to David, and follows all the twists and turns leading up to the big day, it’s a great deal more than that.
I know where else I can start – with the characters. I have to say that I loved Alison from the very beginning – I guess you could say she’s a bit of a flawed heroine, loyal and honest, often overthinking things, acting and speaking before considering the consequences, getting involved in situations that have you covering your eyes as you just can’t watch, but so totally real with a wonderful clear voice. She loves David – he happens to be a psychiatrist and the most perfect foil for her slightly unhinged personality, always calm and controlled, balanced and rational, calmly picking up the pieces when life spirals out of control. She has two of the most wonderful friends: Bev’s just about as off the wall as she is, but thank goodness for organised Pippa – although sometimes prone to her own dramas and meltdowns too – or the wedding might never actually happen at all. And then there’s Alison’s mother, Eunice – entirely horrendous, and their relationship is a difficult one, but she might just be my favourite character of them all.
Fair to say I think that they are probably the main characters, but there are so, so many others – the cast is enormous, some of them cameos (I must mention the vicar – and the registrar at the Town Hall…), but some carrying their own storylines that create the most glorious complications. There’s absolutely no way I can mention them all – and I think I really probably shouldn’t because much of the joy of this book is in getting to know them and becoming entangled in all their complicated lives. Alison’s grown-up children are a constant cause of concern, the bimbo who stole her husband begins to play a larger part in her life than she really wants, and Great-aunt Millie’s own plans for an unconventional wedding derail her planning for a while. And as well as Alison at home, there’s Alison at work – the two Mr Davies’, young and old with their occasional interventions, and her wonderful workmate Muriel.
There are lots of quite wonderful set pieces – I really loved Alison’s slimming class, and the pre-wedding classes with the vicar – but again there are so many “moments” that I really don’t want to spoil them for anyone. I think I must mention the hen party though – an extraordinary group of women all brought together and let loose with alcohol flowing freely, the requisite karaoke sessions and male strippers, until things take a slightly (ok, more than “slightly”!) surreal turn. But it also becomes a trigger for the sharing of some home truths and revelations with a surprising edge of real poignancy, quite unexpected, maybe a little out of kilter with everything that’s gone before, but rather well done.
Have I mentioned the comedy? I know humour’s sometimes a personal thing, but it most certainly worked for me – the laughs come thick and fast, created by the really well-drawn characters and the situations they find themselves in. The writing really is excellent, and the dialogue really sparkles and sizzles – and the author makes you feel entirely part of the action, even if you’d sometimes be rather more comfortable sitting in the corner looking on in horror and amazement.
Do I have some criticism? It’s perhaps a little longer than it should be – and the story does peter out a bit rather than reach a decisive ending. And I might have liked a rather firmer and more focused story arc – the distractions sometimes become more important and lead you off in rather too many directions, which can become just a little uncomfortable but you can’t help enjoying where they lead you.
But I really do have to say how much I enjoyed it – while admitting I’ve never read anything quite like it before. It’s time to use the words “quirky” and “different” just once more I think – and although its frenetic pace might not be to everyone’s taste, it absolutely worked for me. It’s certainly a book I won’t forget in a hurry, and a fun reading experience I’d definitely recommend to others…
Liz has a Facebook Live launch at 2pm today – you’ll find it here – when she plans to read a few extracts and raise a cuppa to the book’s success. You might just like to join her…
About the author
I’m a golden-retriever-loving granny, who enjoys walking by the sea or in the woods, who eats too much chocolate, and who gets over-excited when the Welsh team plays rugby.
I have self-published two novels, This Time Last Year, and The Dog-walking Club, but I’m also an experienced freelance writer and author of several non-fiction books published by Hodder & Stoughton, Scripture Union and Kevin Mayhew.