Tag Archives: relationships

Never Greener by Ruth Jones

The book Never Greener by Ruth Jones lying on a patch of green grass and daisies which echo the daisy on the book cover.

Whisper it, but sometimes the joy of reading is being able to rubber neck as characters make disastrous lifestyle choices and sit in judgement of the fallout. Never Greener by Ruth Jones was a book that allowed me to indulge these tendencies to the full. My friend passed the book on to me, and by page 11 I was already texting her to express my absolute contempt for the behaviour of the main characters. She got regular updates condemning them until I finished the book.

Written by that Ruth Jones (of Gavin and Stacey fame, aka the woman people did impressions of at me for like my first three years living in England), Never Greener tells the story of Kate Andrews, an actress who had a passionate affair with a married man, Callum, before finding success as an actress and trying to move on from the fallout. Seventeen years later, Kate and Callum meet again, and of course, faced with the choice of restart the affair or leave it well alone they make the bad choice with consequences for everyone around them.

You always see bookish people sneering at the concept of unlikable characters putting people off a book, but I know what people mean. If you don’t care about the characters, how can you be invested in the story? In Never Greener, Ruth Jones has been very clever with this because even though I was quick to text my friend that the main characters were an absolute bunch of b***ards, as a reader you become very invested in how things will play out because of the more likeable innocent bystander characters.

It’s easy to wonder whether Ruth Jones based the character of Kate Andrews, actress and raving narcissist on a real actress, but I wondered the same about the character of Callum MacGregor, as the rugby lad past his glory days who can’t keep it in his trousers is such a familiar town trope, if you will, in Wales that transposing the characters to Scotland doesn’t stop you feeling like it might be someone that you know. Ruth Jones’ storytelling chops are clearly on display as the unfair unfolds, and indeed unravels, it’s hard to put the book down.

Never Greener lives up to the title as something of a modern day fable, and is a great read for one of those nights when you feel the need to put the world to rights. The downside for me is that the male character, typically with these things, seems to come across better than the female even though in the early stages of their relationship at least the balance of power and responsibilities lay with him, but no book is perfect and I did like how this played out.

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

$R1XQGT8I, like most people, read books partly for the escapism they provide. You suspend your disbelief, and enter the world of the book, outside concerns irrelevant for as long as you can focus.

I’ll be honest, when I bought The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary, I was expecting to have some problems suspending my disbelief. I know that these arrangements – where two unrelated parties end up sharing a bed, sleeping shifts, because life is so bloody unaffordable – exist, but getting my head around how that would work (how is that working, for so many people post-covid??) in lockdown, I didn’t think I’d be able to go with the flow. But I could, and I did, and I found myself genuinely smiling with enjoyment as I read.

The plot of The Flatshare is pure chick lit, and I don’t mean that in a pejorative sense. The author knows what her readers want – a love story in which you know that the characters will get together, but it’s more about the journey than the destination, and wow, what a journey.

Tiffy has broken up with her boyfriend Justin, who she is very much in love with, but she only realises that this isn’t one of their temporary splits when he brings another woman home. Nice. Being an associate editor at a craft publisher (hello less than London living wage publishers, we see you) she can’t afford anywhere to rent on her own, so is forced into taking a flat share with a palliative care nurse who works nights and spends his weekends at his girlfriend’s place. Leon, said palliative care nurse, needs the extra money because his brother has been sentenced to eight years in prison for armed robbery, a robbery that Leon believes that he didn’t commit, though his girlfriend Kay is less than convinced. She is taking care of the subletting of the flat share so that he and Tiffy never meet. Instead, they communicate through post-it notes, and it isn’t too long until a written friendship springs up between the flatmates….

Looping back to the issue of chick lit being considered a derogatory term, I guess I am using it here as a reference to women’s issues fiction, though I acknowledge that’s very reductive too. This novel, while hugely entertaining is more than a romance, and tackles some pretty serious issues, like emotional abuse, wrongful conviction based on racial profiling, and post-traumatic stress disorder. On the surface it’s less will they, won’t they, more when will they, how will they, marriage plot stuff, but as a novel it has heart and depth, and I thought it was well done.

It would make a fun sitcom/drama, and in the hope that they will adapt it for the big screen, you could have hours of fun fantasy casting The Flat Share.

I will be checking with friends and family as to whether they’ve read it and, if not, will be gifting this as the escapist read lots of us need in 2020.

But if Chick Lit isn’t your genre, I challenge you to write the dark psychological thriller that this book could undoubtedly have been if more sinister characters and lockdown had been thrown into the plot. There’s a writing prompt for you.