Review of ‘Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between’by Jennifer E Smith

imageThanks to NetGalley, Bookbridgr and Headline for the ARC of this book.

‘Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between’ follows high school sweethearts Aidan and Clare on their last night before leaving to go to university on opposite coasts of America. They revisit places which have been significant to their relationship as they try to come to a decision about whether to stay together or split up.

I really enjoyed this as a concept for a book. It’s a dilemma which thousands of kids have to go through every year but about which I don’t recall reading before.

I did find that for two teenagers the characters had a little more prescience than I would expect. They understood how unlikely they would be to make it as a couple and the damage they could do to their relationship and their college experience by trying to stay together. I’m not sure teenagers are that thoughtful, I remember starting uni and there were loads of girls who arrived with boyfriends at home and within the first month only one of these couples were still together.

However, I do think the book captures the pain and confusion of this situation perfectly. The staying up all night talking things through is exactly what happens in these situations. I went through something similar with my then boyfriend now husband before leaving to study in America for a year in 1999 and this brought all those memories back.

Overall, I found this a sweet, enjoyable read which benefited from a simple concept and sparse narration.

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Review of ‘A Spool of Blue Thread’ by Anne Tyler

A spool of blue threadAnne Tyler is one of my very favourite authors. She is fabulous at creating narratives about the intricacies of family dynamics, including oddball characters and the complicated ways in which people love each other. So I was eagerly anticipating the paperback release of her latest novel, which at the time I believed was to be her last, although happily it is not.

I often find with Tyler’s novels that I really enjoy reading the book but I’m left disappointed by the ending. This was the case with this book. The novel paints a portrait of the Whitshank family over four generations and the house in which they live. I really liked reading about the modern day family, but I was less interested in the older generation which is the focus of the last third of the book so I found my enjoyment drifted towards the end.

Rather than having a driving narrative plot, it is more a series of vignettes about important moments in the family’s life. I would have preferred if the book had just stayed in the present day and delved more into the motivations and peculiarities of the family members the book portrayed at its beginning, with whom I felt very engaged. However, I cannot deny the quality of Tyler’s writing and her ability to create real multi-layered characters and amusing, touching family situations.