A(nother) Review: Those People by Louise Candlish

Two reviews in two days? No, I didn’t read it that quickly, I’m trying to catch up on my reviews – I have quite a few outstanding, so here goes with the next one.

 

The Facts

 

Title Those People

Author Louise Candlish (Twitter: @Louise_Candlish)

Publisher Simon & Schuster

Publication Date 11thJuly 2019

Buy it on Bert’s Books bertsbooks.co.uk/those-people

 

The Blurb

MEET THE NEIGHBOURS YOU’LL LOVE TO HATE

 

Until Darren and Jodie move in, Lowland Way is a suburban paradise.

Beautiful homes. Friendly neighbours. Kids playing out in the street.

But Darren and Jodie don’t follow the rules and soon disputes over loud music and parking rights escalate to threats of violence. Then, early one Sunday, a horrific crime shocks the street. As the police go house-to-house, the residents close ranks and everyone’s story is the same: They did it.

But there’s a problem. The police don’t agree. And the door they’re knocking on next is yours.

 

Does it deliver?

It absolutely does.

 

It takes time for the reader to discover what the crime that shocks the street is, the first part of the novel begins the day that Darren and Jodie move in, but each chapter begins with snippets of transcripts between the police and the neighbours describing what happened that Sunday morning.

 

It works well to build up the tension, but I was half expecting the crime to be the main focus of the book, instead, we reach it within a third of the novel and we then focus on the fall-out and the escalating tension between Darren and Jodie and the rest of the neighbours – building to an ending, leaves the loose ends just tied tight enough for you to want that teensy bit more, but feeling satisfied

 

Characters

We follow four neighbours – Ralph, Tess, Sissy and Ant – they are in effect the heroes of our story, battling against the invasion to their perfect lives. That’s certainly how they see themselves

 

And while Darren and Jodie aren’t exactly the nicest neighbours to have, they’ve technically not committed any crimes. They just haven’t fitted in.

 

There’s a wonderful moment when Ralph – after having encourage Ant to record Jodie and Darren’s driveway for evidence – complains that Darren is looking out his window at them. “He’s probably a paedophile” he complains.

 

And that’s typical of these characters. They’re all nice enough on the surface, but they’re full of prejudice and NIMBYism. It is said that a person’s true character is revealed when they’re put under pressure, and that’s certainly what happens here.

 

Candlish has created a large cast, but one that is easy to get a grip on and instantly feels real and compelling.

 

The Setting

Most of the action takes place in Lowland Way – a street in modern-day London, with a few small snippets taking place in some nearby pubs. Candlish cleverly doesn’t waste too much time describing the street.

 

We all know places like Lowland Way and all have our own images of it. The geography of the houses starts to make itself known naturally as the book progresses. I imagined a mix of Wisteria Lane from Desperate Housewives and the street I grew up in.

 

The Verdict – 9/10

It’s another strong book that I think will be a big hit this summer. It builds tension and suspense throughout and even though you might find yourself not liking the characters very much, you do still care about them, wishing them their little victories, excusing some of their mistakes – even when it’s obvious they’re doing something wrong.

 

My theory is that you’ll probably find yourself feeling sympathy to one of the characters – but it’ll be a different one, depending on who you’re most like. Expect a BuzzFeed quiz on it very soon.

 

(If you feel sympathy for them all, you’ve got problems)

 

Look Out For

If you enjoyed Those People you’ll enjoy Our House also by Louise Candlish.

 

Don’t Forget…

You can buy Those People from my own online book shop Bert’s Books. If you use the code RAMBLING at the check-out, you’ll get 10% off.

 

 

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

 

“War was declared at 11.15 and Mary North signed up at noon.”

 

That’s a wonderful first line of a book and helps the book set out it’s stall simply in one sentence, so that it can get on with the story.

 

Written by Chris Cleave, the genius behind Gold – a book about Olympic cycling that somehow made me cry – this is the kind of book that you’ll want a pen with you as you read so you can underline all the great lines.

 

Mary is part of the upper class of London, and the dialogue and inner monologue of the book is written in a clipped form that instantly makes you feel part of Mary’s world.

 

Gradually as the realities of war start to kick in Mary begins to mature, and while she never quite loses her ideological edge, she does become more aware of her place in the world.

 

As a rule, I don’t like books set during the war. It’s part of my whole historical fiction is just an excuse for the author to show off how much they’ve been able to research, and that often takes me out of the narrative.

 

(And yes, I appreciate the irony considering the fact that at least one of the chapters in my novel is set during an air raid in the Second World War)

 

But I am always willing to forgive authors that I like and give them a go, and boy am I glad that I did with Everyone Brave Is Forgiven.

 

While it didn’t have the same dramatic and emotional ending that Gold did, it is beautifully written all the way through with a range of characters that you care about, and a sense of real jeopardy.

 

It may be unfair to compare Everyone Brave is Forgiven to Gold, they are after all very different stories and comparing them is a bit like comparing strawberry ice cream with garlic bread. They both have wonderful qualities, both are completely different and you want them to be different. Garlic ice cream, anyone? A slice of strawberry bread?

 

But, what stands out in Gold all these years later is the story, I can’t honestly say I l look back on it and remember the writing – though surely it was great. If in five years time you ask me my thoughts on Everyone Brave is Forgiven I’ll tell you about the writing.

 

Very early on I captured a picture of a line of the text because I thought it was a lovely line, however looking back at it now, it ties in with what I was saying earlier on about the development of Mary as a character.

 

Mary is sent to work in a school when she signs up at the War Office, and when asked by the headmistress why she did sign up, Mary replies:

 

“I hoped it might be less exhausting than the constant rest.”

 

I do think that if the same question was asked of Mary the last time we meet her, she might have a very different answer.

 

Not that it’s all about Mary of course, there are several other characters, equally well drawn, equally compelling and Cleave weaves through their viewpoints in such a way that you can never be too sure who will survive and who won’t.

 

Even to the last chapter, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. That, coupled with the lasting image of two characters walking along the side of the Thames, both battered by the war, together, but still forced apart at the same time makes for a very memorable book indeed.

 

Scoring 4.4 out of 5, it climbs to the top of my 2016 leaderboard, and I suspect will stay there for some time

 

Everyone Brave is Forgiven is released in Hardback in April 2016

 

 

(Not) Looking for Love Part 1

Towards the end of 2014, I decided I was going to find me one of those boyfriend things.

I’ve never really had the most successful of love lives – though it’s not been completely inactive – and part of that has been of my own choosing, never really wanting anything permanent.

I’m happy in my own company and I work long hours. Sharing the precious few hours I get to myself with someone else has never really been a priority.

Occasionally, I get a bit lonely and want to spend some time with people, but that’s what friends and family are for. So again, that boyfriend thing never really appealed.

Of course, there are SOME things that friends and family can’t provide, but I’ve always found sex a little overrated, time consuming, and frankly, a bit dull at times. I don’t know, maybe I’m doing it wrong.

But something changed, and I don’t really know what. Maybe it was that three of my friends got into serious relationships – one of them someone who up until that point had a similar attitude to relationships as me.

Maybe it was because it was cold and I needed to find a new way of keeping warm. Maybe I just wanted more presents for Christmas.

The point is… I asked somebody out. Confidence has never been a problem for me, except when it comes to men – so for me to directly ask someone was big news. (Even though it was via a Direct Message on Twitter – it still counts. #BabySteps)

The answer was “thanks, but no thanks” – and I moved on, got over it. Which was a new experience for me. Normally, if I ever do like a guy, before I even talk to him, I’ve idealised him in my mind and planned our lives together. This usually leads to disappointment, but it’s a by-product of the endless chat that has come with meeting people on social media.

Exactly that happened shortly after Christmas, when just randomly chatting with someone on twitter we started sending each other direct messages. He was cute, been following each other on twitter for a few months, not ever really considered anything before. Partly because he lived SO far away.

We spent a whole night chatting, first on Direct Message, then via text. We found we had so much in common, and we were laughing about how fate seemed to be throwing us together. We both talked about the future, about running off to live away from all of society in some forest somewhere – he even jokingly asked me to marry him.

Then, after a week and a half of non-stop chat, he ended it. Said it was nothing personal, but he’d realised that he didn’t want to be with anyone, he wanted to remain single.

I wasn’t devastated, partly because I was expecting it (one doesn’t get rejected by as many men as I have without starting to be able to read the signs), but partly because it was something I’d said to guys before. One specifically comes to mind, where there was nothing wrong with him, a perfectly lovely, attractive guy – I just didn’t want to be in a relationship with him.

But I was a bit upset – because again, I thought I’d made a connection, and again, it came to nothing.

But, I surprised myself, the following day, by being completely over it. And that’s nothing against the guy, but what we had – like most virtual relationships – wasn’t real. Whatever it was, I enjoyed it massively at the time, but found afterwards I didn’t miss it.

And then I realised I didn’t miss it because, he wasn’t the right guy for me. The stuff I enjoyed was all the bits that come with a relationship, someone to chat to (even if it was only over the phone), to tell stuff to, to make me smile when he compliments.

I miss that, but I don’t miss him.

So I’ve learned something. I’m NOT going to find me one of those boyfriend things. I’m not gonna look, because I’ll just try and force it again.

But I AM going to start saying yes to things, going out and doing more stuff, where I might meet some new people, and if one of them new people happens to be the right guy for me, well that’s wonderful, but I’m going to let him find me.

This new attitude has already started to reap rewards, when, last weekend I made the trip up to London for a two hour pre-launch party for Helen Lederer’s new book (review to come soon).

Old me, wouldn’t have wasted money on such a short trip, especially one on my own. He would have just stayed home, watched TV, shuffled stuff around the flat and maybe have ventured out to McDonalds for a burger.

New me, travelled up, had a lovely time, met some new people, made some new contacts, and even made a handsome guy give me his number. It was happening before I even thought about it – didn’t ask him for it, didn’t offer mine, just told him to give me his number.

I might never see him again, I might run into him next time I’m in London – who knows. But I’m not gonna over think it. It’s possible and, indeed probable, that he didn’t want to give me his number, but it was his real one, because I did send him a little text and he text back. We left it with maybe a drink, maybe sometime.

A chance encounter, that came out of me not looking for love, that has led to a ‘maybe’.

I’ll update you sporadically on my non-quest, whether you want to be updated or not – I’m still not looking for love, but I think I’m finally ready for it if turns up.