It’s such a pleasure today to be joining the blog tour and sharing my review of Nobody’s Perfect by Stephanie Butland. Due for publication on 19th August by Zaffre Books (and you can pre-order now), this lovely book will be available as an ebook, in paperback, and as an audiobook. My thanks to Tracy Fenton at Compulsive Readers for the invitation and support, and to the publishers for my advance reading ecopy (provided via netgalley).
I do have quite a long history of reading and enjoying Stephanie’s writing – I first found her way back in April 2014, with Surrounded By Water (review here), which was later published in paperback and for kindle as Letters to my Husband and won the hearts of many. To my shame, I still haven’t read the book that many others loved so much, Lost For Words – but I rediscovered her writing with The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae (you’ll find my review of that one here) and vowed I’d never neglect her books again. Woman in the Photograph was published in 2019 – brave and different, an unflinching look at the struggle of first wave feminism, coupled with an immensely engaging personal story: you’ll find my review here, and I was delighted to include it in my 2019 Books of the Year list.
I was really looking forward to seeing what she did next – let’s take a closer look…
A story of a mother’s love and overcoming the past, perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes and Jodi Picoult. Asking, does your past really define your future?
When her daughter was born with cystic fibrosis, Kate Micklethwaite vowed that Daisy would never be defined by her health issues. Kate is determined that her perfect little girl will be known for her love of butterflies, croissants and bouncing on trampolines, not for her condition.
Kate does all she can to be the perfect mother – whatever that means – and yet, somehow, has started seeing herself the way others see her: single parent, source of small-town scandal, drop-out, former mistress. Half a family.
When Daisy starts school, Kate meets her new teacher, the kind and charming Mr Spencer Swanson. Now, with more time on her hands Kate can finally start thinking about her own future. With her Open University dissertation deadline looming, Kate needs to decide what she wants next. But as she and Spencer get to know each other, Kate notices that people are whispering behind her back once more…
Young mother Kate’s life is entirely centred on her daughter Daisy – cystic fibrosis makes her desperately vulnerable, and she needs to be constantly alert to the many threats and the measures that are needed to keep her safe, to be the perfect mother. Daisy is far from defined by her illness, vibrant and enchanting, passionate about butterflies and bouncing on trampolines – and the love between mother and daughter is palpable. Kate has always been an outsider in the village of Throckton, the scandal surrounding Daisy’s birth having drawn her to people’s attention (with a nice link to one of the author’s earlier books – a particular treat for me, but recognising that isn’t essential) – but she has the support she needs from her caring mother who is happy to bounce on the trampoline with Daisy and look after her when she needs to, but who also sometimes rather uncomfortably becomes the voice of Kate’s conscience.
When Spencer comes into their lives, he almost seems too good to be true – a teacher at Daisy’s school, he really seems to understand and to be happy to accept the limitations on their lives, and it looks as if Kate is finally destined for some happiness of her own. But there are challenges – the muttering about the inappropriateness of the relationship, the possibility that Kate’s focus on her daughter could slip a little, and that ever present question mark over whether she’s right to let him into their lives and if he can possibly be quite as perfect as he seems.
This was a book I really loved – I sat down to read it one afternoon, and barely moved until I’d read the last page. It first draws you into the lives of mother and daughter, helping you understand the extreme level of vigilance needed to care for such a special child – and then there’s the sheer joy of the romance growing from an initial spark of attraction, the chance of being a complete family at last. The pace of the book is steady, though with moments of particular drama – and the emotional impact exceptional, with moments that pierce you to the heart.
The characterisation is simply superb – I instantly loved both Kate and Daisy, but there’s also a really well-drawn supporting cast (with a special mention for teaching assistant Wendy, a character with particular warmth, whose personal life adds a further interesting dimension to the story – and best friend Melissa, who provides some of the fun but also a vision of the different life Kate could have had).
I knew lamentably little about the reality of living with cystic fibrosis, and I learned a lot – the author’s research is amply clear, and the way she uses it makes you painfully aware of the way it becomes the focus of every waking moment. I knew nothing about the need to maximise the intake of food, the drug regime, the need for exercise, the vulnerability to infection – or the way caring for a child with such challenges entirely takes over your life. But I can’t stress enough that the book never concentrates on the misery – there are plenty of moments of lightness and joy, lots of well-judged humour, the developing romance makes your heart sing, and the relationship between Kate and Daisy has a warmth that radiates from the book’s pages. When Kate hurts, I ached too – the writing really is exceptional. And the book’s title is completely right – none of us is perfect, however hard we try to be, but just sometimes doing the best we can manage is enough.
I loved every moment of this book – one that’ll stay with me for some time, and highly recommended to all.
‘Beautifully written . . . this illustrates that you don’t need to be perfect to be good enough’ Katie Fforde, author of A Wedding in the Country
‘A pleasure to read’ Shelley Harris, author of Jubilee
‘A story of inner strength, fierce love and knowing your worth. Lovely’ Jessica Ryn, author of The Extraordinary Hope of Dawn Brightside
About the author
Stephanie Butland is a novelist who fell in love with performance poetry when researching her novel Lost For Words. Her first two books were about her dance with cancer. She then turned to fiction. Her previous novels are Letters To My Husband, The Other Half Of My Heart, Lost For Words, The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae and Woman in the Photograph.
Stephanie lives in Northumberland. She writes in a studio at the bottom of her garden, and when she’s not writing, she trains people to think more creatively.