So the eagle eyed amongst you may have noticed I’ve not blogged as much or been doing things of the such fun blogging nature for a good few weeks now – last week excepted, and there’s a new ‘Dear Cat & Fi’ coming a bit later. That’s because life’s been a bit hectic and not such fun but rest assured the fun recommences right here right now – starting with a long overdue review of the new book from one Mrs Giovanna Fletcher.
Readers will remember that I reviewed her first book ‘Billy & Me’ earlier on in the year (which she then RT’ed and Tweeted me to say thank you for after. No pressure this time, Gi, if you’re reading this *wink wink, nudge nudge etc*) and that in between that book and this new one, there was a small Christmas novella bringing us up to speed on Sophie and Billy and all the clan in Rosefont Hill, and her second novel, ‘You’re the One That I Want’. I wasn’t so keen on that one, even though I could see where the angle was coming from writing it from multiple points of view with the main characters in the love triangle arc of that novel.
So with a lot of expectation and hope, I came to her new book. ‘Dream a Little Dream’ tells the story of Sarah, a normal twenty-something city girl who seems to have hit a bit of a rut in her life – stuck at a dead end PA job for many years to the narcissistic (nay unhygenic) head of a leading TV production company with no chance of promotion, a constant disappointment to her very middle class mother (I was instantly picturing something along the lines of Patricia Hodge as Penny from Miranda) and, perhaps worst of all, staying friends with her ex-boyfriend Dan whilst keeping a brave face on in front of the woman he left Sarah for – known for the duration of the novel as ‘Perfect Lexie’.
Still. There is one purple patch in Sarah’s life. Namely, that of her dream world when she goes to sleep at night, where she keeps having romantic encounters with a man she was vaguely acquainted with in her uni days called Brett Last. The more intense (and at some points raunchy) these dreams get, the more frustrated she feels trying to pinpoint where he was from. Or more to the point, trying to work out what these dreams are telling her and why this man of her dreams isn’t in her life for real. What then follows, as someone from the ideas development branch of the company she works at hands in their notice, is the recruitment and arrival of the actual Brett Last into her office, as she struggles to balance the real Brett with the dream one.
One strength that has played a huge attraction for me in previous novels of Giovanna’s is her ability to build an entire world in her writing for the reader – she has such a way with words that you feel like you connect with her characters, their environments and the situations they find themselves in instantly. And it really works to the advantage of ‘Dream a Little Dream’, where she writes not just in Sarah’s normal day to day life but also in her dreamscapes. Hence why you find yourself laughing yet totally believing the insanity of the notion that Dermot O’Leary serves Sarah a caffe latte in his full suit-and-tie garb off the riverboat cafe she passes on her way to work, or that Jamie Oliver is a concierge into a hotel she’s trying to enter whilst pushing a pram.
There’s a small subplot involving Sarah and Brett that brings them together when she’s asked by her boss to shadow on the programme development team, that sees her pitching an idea for a new travel series with the working title ‘Grannies Go Gap’, which would see elderly ladies or men whisked off on a trip of a lifetime to the Great Wall of China or the Niagara Falls or similar destination. Her description in particular of their potential guinea pig for the show, 86 year old Ethel, and the little life she leads that is a million miles away from Sarah’s was so vivid and familiar because I’m sure we’ve all known an Ethel at one point in our life.
Same likewise, that we’ve all known a fairly wang ex-boyfriend or girlfriend like Dan, and an unbelievably smug new other half of your ex like Perfect Lexie. And an overbearing mum like Sarah’s. It’s this that makes you get behind Sarah’s struggle instantly, and really championing her however pony the road ahead looks as the book progresses, and the end is built up to in a really interesting way but is very satisfying ultimately. I especially liked the small references – one in the dreamscape, the other in real life – to both Gi’s other half Tom Fletcher and to Billy Buskin from her first novel. I just felt they added a really nice quirky touch to the novel.
‘Dream a Little Dream’ is undoubtedly one of the best, escapist and feel good novels you’ll read all year – and three books into her career as an author, is more than proof enough that Gi has established herself as a real romantic, witty writing force to be reckoned with. Long may it continue.