Monday, 4 March 2013

Thursdays in the Park

The "women's fiction" genre is not one that tends to be my cup of tea. I usually find the stories too predictable, the happy endings too obvious and the writing style too similar to every other book of its kind that's been produced. However, Thursdays in the Park seemed a little different. For one, it's characters are not twenty/thirtysomethings who live Sex & The City-lite lives. So, when it appeared for 20p on Amazon, I downloaded and thought I'd give it a go.

Jeanie is approaching sixty and in a safe but unsatisfactory marriage, which changed inexplicably one night when George, her husband, physically rejects her and spends the next ten years sleeping in a separate bedroom, not listening to Jeanie's thoughts or desires. Her escape is through visits to the park with her granddaughter, and it is on these visits she meets fellow grandparent, Ray. The two fall for each other, and this emphasises to Jeanie that the best days of her marriage are behind her.

Jeanie is bound by duty; as George is solid and not a bad person, she doesn't see the need to rock the boat. However, as her birthday approaches and George makes a decision, backed by her self-absorbed daughter Chanty, to up sticks and retire to the country, Jeanie feels increasingly trapped. Meanwhile, her relationship with kindly, sympathetic Ray develops she starts to pick up the courage to take control of her life; that is, until George tells her the real reason for his rejection in a shocking twist which obliges Jeanie even more to continue the path which leads her away from a future with Ray.

This was an interesting tale of family duty and obligation and a lesson that love and passion are universal across all decades of our lives. How to combat the rules we tie ourselves to which force us to remain in safe but unhappy situations is a theme applicable to all age groups and did force me as a reader to question just what action is best; the one that works for those I love, or the one that will make me happy? I also found George's character brilliantly frustrating; patronising, controlling and yet sympathetic all at the same time.

Sadly, as I progressed through the story, it wasn't these positive elements that stayed with me whenever I stopped reading to make way for my tube stop. There were a few stylistic things that distracted me. They were strange little things too. For example, it became something of a joke for myself trying to predict the length of the gap in pages between references to alcohol. Every scene seemed to contain at least one reference to a "chilled white", a "nightcap", a "delicious Rioja" etc etc...I wouldn't be surprised if a sequel to this was based in a rehab clinic. Joking aside, this formed one part of a checklist of slightly painful middle class cliches in this book. Jeanie owning a health food shop...tick! Daughter with a silly name...tick! That's before I even get onto the Polish shop assistant's inability to include the word "is" in sentences...

Anyway, enough of that. This was an easy read which was very enjoyable - if you like chicklit I think this is a great alternative perspective. Alas, I think it'll be a rare read where I'll rave about a book of this genre unless it is a complete departure from current rules of the form. But before you hold me to my word, you may wish to check out this great review from The Book Jotter.

(Available from Amazon in paperback or Kindle format)


  1. Thanks for the link back.

    I did think the health food shop was a bit of a cliche, but had not picked up about the drinking.

    Always great to get a different perspective. I am looking forward to reading her next novel though.

    1. You're welcome - I think your review was perhaps a little more balanced! I just found the few cliches quite niggling (sadly I have a bit of a pedantic tendency), and once I'd noticed the wine references unfortunately it distracted me a fair bit! I'd definitely be keen to read more of her work though as it was a gentle read which explored some interesting themes.


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