It’s an absolute pleasure today to be joining the blog tour and sharing my review of On the Bright Side by Nell Carter: published on 5th August by Welbeck, it’s now available for kindle, in paperback and as an audiobook. My thanks to ed public relations for the invitation and support, and to the author herself for providing an advance copy of the e-book to enable my review.
I loved the look of this book from the moment I first heard about it – although it then had a different title (I do prefer the new one!) and a far earlier publication date. I was beginning to think the day would never come – and I’m sure the author must have felt the same! – but something this good was certainly well worth waiting for…
There’s always time for a second chance…
At least that is what people say. But what if it’s true? What if you could walk out the door and build a whole new you, a whole new life?
Clare and Jack are about to find out.
He’s a middle-aged barrister, living life as he ‘should’. She’s a recently divorced dance teacher and mum to a teenage daughter. Change isn’t easy for either of them.
But it’s not impossible.
If they do something BIG, could the next half of their lives be the best half?
There are times when you have an almost irresistible urge to start telling the full story – every wonderful twist and turn that made me cry and laugh, that plunged me into the depths and made my heart sing, that made me fall in love with its characters and entirely unable to put it down until I’d read the very last page. But the book’s description gives away very little, and I’m going to take the same approach, allowing every new reader to discover and love this story in the same way I did.
But I can talk about the book’s characters, Clare and Jack. They’re both in their forties, with lives and histories that have followed very different paths. Jack is a barrister, a little staid and enjoying stability and routine, living a comfortable but fairly self-contained life – but he’s decided the time has come to spread his wings a little, visit his family in the US, then heading for Europe and some of the sights and experiences he’s missed out on. Clare has had particularly difficult times, but the time has come for some major changes – and those changes, coupled with a decision Jack makes to give something back to help others less fortunate, brings their paths together. I’ve rarely come across two characters who won me over so quickly – the story is told from both their viewpoints, and I loved Clare’s passion and vulnerability, and Jack’s wry humour as he struggles with his own demons.
And there’s another character I entirely took to my heart – Grace, Clare’s fifteen-year-old daughter. She’s a wonderful character – a very real teen, but sometimes with a wisdom about her that’s considerably greater than that possessed by the adults around her. And there are, of course, a number of other characters equally well-drawn – the book has a strong focus both on friendship (in Jack’s case, his long-time friend Olly, always ready to offer advice Jack doesn’t want to hear – while Clare is making new and supportive alliances) and the many facets of family.
As Jack and Clare make decisions about their future lives, there are scenes and moments in this book that made me engage with their lives to an extraordinary degree – I loved them both, ached for them when things went wrong, laughed with them through their moments of joy and lightness. Emotionally, the author’s touch is simply perfect – and the book is full of tentative steps forward and several steps backwards that entirely immerse you in their lives and the choices they make. There’s plenty of perfectly judged humour – the whole book has an immense warmth that radiates from its pages – but other times when you find yourself welling up at a perfectly crafted emotional moment.
Both Jack and Clare need to learn to leave their pasts behind, to find their inner strength, and to open themselves to the possibility of happiness in their futures – and it’s a journey where I was with them for every difficult step along the way, willing them on. Beautifully crafted, warm and wise, this was a book that will stay with me for a very long time – and I hardly need to say that it will be one of my books of the year.
‘This tender tale of love and finding your inner strength is a balm for the soul. Beautifully crafted, this book and these characters will stay with me for a long time.’ Claire Allan
‘A hygge hug: a story of how to love the who-you-are, not the who-you-have-been. An elegantly crafted story that we all need right now.’ Anstey Harris
‘A book that you’ll always remember where you were when you first read it… Nell Carter will reduce you to tears and then fill your heart with joyful hope again.’ Claudia Carroll
About the author
Nell Carter lives in the South-East with her husband. Their grown-up daughters have flown the coop but, like boomerangs, keep coming home.
From a much larger family herself, Nell likes to write about real people – the dust and dirt that layers their relationships, the light and shade that makes them love and cry.