Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Book Review: "The Story of Our Lives" by Helen Warner + GIVEAWAY

The Story of Our Lives Helen Warner
Date Finished: January 17, 2018
Date Published: February 13, 2018
ISBN: 9781525820830
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: TLC Book Tours

You might enjoy this book if you like: Novels about female friendship, contemporary British novels, soap operas

A moving, unputdownable novel about four lifelong friends, the milestones they've survived...and the one thing that might change everything. There are certain events you'll always remember where you were and who you were with...and the friends who have commiserated and celebrated every amazing first date, bad breakup, dubious haircut and dream job along the way. Sophie, Emily, Amy and Melissa have been best friends since they were girls. They have seen each other through everything--from Sophie's private fear that she doesn't actually want to be a mother despite being mom to two kids, to Amy's perfect-on-the-outside marriage that starts to reveal troubling warning signs, to Melissa's spiraling alcoholism, to questions around the paternity of Emily's son. But could a lie that spans just as long as their friendship be the thing that tears them apart? Four friends. Twenty years. One powerful secret. 

My Thoughts:
I've struggled with how to start with this review and I think the best thing is to share something that I realized at the end of this book which, had I known it earlier, probably would have led to greater enjoyment while reading this story.

This novel is a soap opera.

I mean this in a couple of ways.  First of all, the plots of the story are very soap-ish.  Fortunately, I'd call them more prime-time soap plots (think This is Us or Grey's Anatomy) than daytime soap plots (things like people performing brain surgery on themselves or daughters giving birth to their own fathers).   Now, I'm a person who tends to enjoy the prime time soaps, so this sort of appealed to me.  Nothing is too crazy here, but it is definitely a bit sensationalist at times.  And they are definitely soap-worthy plots: adultery, addiction, domestic abuse to name a few.

I did enjoy the characters and my favorite part of the book was seeing how the interacted with each other and how their relationships developed.  I did feel like we got to know Amy and Sophie more than Melissa and Emily, which was unfortunate.  However, we still knew enough about those two characters to make the story work.

Now, here is where the soap opera aspect didn't work for me in this book.  In a soap opera, you have plots that come and go and characters who come into the forefront and step back a bit as their own plots follow through.  That works for television--but I didn't work for me in this book.  In some ways, it felt like it almost would have worked better as a short story collection as we spent a story focused on each character instead of this situation where a character would have something to do and then a long stretch of being little more than an accessory to the story.

I also felt that this book didn't have a strong central plot.  It did have a strong central theme--the friendship of these 4 characters--but that wasn't enough to hold all these different plots together.  So, as I was reading this, the whole book just felt disjointed to me until the end when it clicked--THIS IS A SOAP OPERA!  Had I realized that at the beginning, I think that my experience with this book would have been more successful.

I would still recommend this book--it was entertaining and enjoyed getting to know these characters.  However, I feel like I would have to give a heads up to whomever I handed this book about how to read it so that they don't spend the bulk of the novel in the same befuddlement in which I found myself.

About the Author:
Helen Warner is head of daytime for Channel 4, where she is responsible for shows such as Come Dine With Me and Deal Or No Deal. Previously she worked for ITV where she launched the daytime talk show Loose Women and was editor of This Morning. She lives in East Anglia with her husband and their two children.

I received a copy of this book in return for an honest review.  I received no other compensation for this post.

If you would like to read more about this book, please some of the other stops on this tour.

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