It’s been a heck of a year for Giovanna Fletcher – and indeed, since we last reviewed a new book of hers. Not content with topping the bestsellers list in February with Happy Mum, Happy Baby, her frank, moving but funny account of her experiences of motherhood to date, she’s trekked across Oman for the breast cancer charity Coppa Feel, launched a successful podcast series, and is also starring in her hubby Tom’s stage version of his book The Christmasaurus at the Hammersmith Apollo later this month. With all of that, plus her fifth novel having just been published, it’s safe to say she’s a human dynamo.
‘Some Kind of Wonderful’ is a brand new story, telling the tale of 28 year old, Ingatestone born and bred Lizzy. Having been in a relationship with Ian since their university days in Sheffield 10 years ago, they moved in together after graduation and have been inseperable ever since. Which has continually begged the question as to when he’ll pop the question to her amongst her family and friends (and his) – much to her contained annoyance.
But even she is not prepared for the shock of Ian drunkenly breaking up with her (whilst on one knee with an engagement ring in his hand. Smooth) over a dinner for two on the beach at sunset whilst on holiday in Dubai. Flying back to the UK, heartbroken and lost, she finds herself living back with her parents in her old childhood bedroom, wondering where it all went wrong – and how she couldn’t have seen it coming.
The novel follows Lizzy in the months after the split, as she sets about trying to rebuild her life in all aspects, to start anew, and find out who she really is without Ian by her side, with the support of her family and friends around. Whilst I don’t want to give away completely what happens, it’s safe to say she makes some surprising discoveries along the way.
The overriding themes of this novel – about self discovery and identity – really struck a chord with me. Whereas Giovanna’s previous novels have centered on a more conventional romantic comedy/drama plot of ‘girl meets boy’ as they did in say, ‘Billy and Me‘ and ‘Dream a Little Dream‘ (two of the characters from the latter, Natalia and Alastair, appear a fair amount in this novel), this focuses around lost love, and about self love and self esteem, and of love from other relationships aside from romantic ones.
This is particularly true of scenes such as one where Lizzy is sat in her childhood bedroom, writing down lists of the person she was when she was 18, versus the person she is now at 28, and then, later on in the novel, when she sets about making plans to move on and break out of her rut by making lists and notes on the back of an old Spice Girls poster.
It’s also true of scenes like the one where, in her old job with an interior design firm geared towards the ‘Real Housewives of Chigwell’ end of the spectrum, she finds herself reflecting on one client who is not letting her true personality reflect her living space, on account of seeing what they did for her friend and wanting to copy that same design style.
The characters in this novel really jump off the page and have humour, a bit of grit and relatability from the get go. Lizzy’s closest and best friend Connie is sassy and sharp, with a quick wit, as is her younger sister Michelle – the banter and sibling rivalry between them is believable and honest. Her relationship with her dad is one of the strongest of the novel by far for me – particularly when he makes a revelation to her that is touching and heart warming.
‘Some Kind of Wonderful’ is really that and more. It’s a spirited, uplifting and empowering read, about coming through adversity and being stronger for it, and once again shows how, as a writer, Giovanna makes you root for and get behind her protagonist in all that they face and all they (eventually) triumph in as Lizzy does. If you’re at a low point in your life right now, or if you ever have been – you’ll read this book and see a bit of yourself in it. I certainly did.
‘Some Kind of Wonderful’ is out now, published by Penguin/Michael Joseph Books. Twitter: @MrsGiFletcher