Looking For Lucy, Julie Houston
Looking For Lucy, Julie Houston
Genre: Humour, Women’s Fiction.
Well, I loved Julie’s second book, and as I’ve just seen the first, which I’ve not read, is on Kindle Unlimited I’ve borrowed that to read too! When, I don’t know – so many books, so little time! Anyway, all this came about as Julie now has book three out and I was lucky enough to get an early copy for review.
Once more we meet the gang of Harriet, Grace and Amanda, plus husbands, kids, parents and others, and a few new faces jopin the group. Its the same tangled web of life, twining the intricacies of everyday life with a dollop of laugh out loud humour, typical family problems with children, partners, parents, schools, jobs, pets even, and then running through this mix is the mystery of Lucy. Who is Lucy? Who’s looking for her – and why? All gets revealed as the story flows out, and we find that all these characters really do share that “six degrees of separation”. I kept thinking I’d guessed who Lucy was, then when we knew who she was I was guessing how she fitted into the group – and got it all wrong. Its one of those stories that starts with a small group that expands and expands, and by the end there’s a huge gathering of connected people, some who’ve become close friends along the way, as with earlier reads.
At times I was really emotional reading the tales that come out, there are some really sad but true to life events, and then Julie throws in another slapstick moment, a one liner comment or something that brings the mood up. Its a great balance, a story that is very deeply moving and tear-jerking in parts, very haunting, and yet saved from being one of those that make you feel depressed for the characters by the wonderful humour woven through.
I loved meeting the old friends – though it took me a little while to remember who was partnered with who, and I still can’t really warm to Amanda…( though I loved it when much later in the book she took them to a club for a girls night out. Recommeneded by her teenage son it turned out to be a gay bar – and was a wondeful night, with some fabulous snarky comments from the guy who was their waiter at the place they’d been earlier, and then showed up there. When he referred to them as part of “the antiques roadshow”, said Heirloom Tomatoes were what your granny keeps under the bed with the family silver… and lines like that – he was a great character.
Clementine is the lead charater and a great addition to the group of ladies, as is her doctor friend Izzy. The humour is set early, with me sniggering at Clementine’s description of her uniform while she’s waitressing at The Black Swan pub, black apron and feathered swan cap supposed to give the appearance of graceful, gliding swans, but in reality made them look more like “malevolent black crows” …I could just visualize it. Its there she meets Peter, and the ball starts rolling when he asks her out…to a Roundheads V Cavaliers re-enactment group. Poor Clementine, he’s a nice guy but…then again her friend Izzy has been saying she needs to date, and somehow she finds herself agreeing and being proudly presented by Peter to his hero, Oliver Cromwell. He’s desparately he’ll be impressed by Clementine, encouraged by his bringing someone new to the group and promote him to the haloed post of Muskets from his current one of Pikestaff. He’s such a good man, and so keen on his group and his hero worship of Oliver ( Neville I think the guys name is…but he’s Oliver Cromwell to me).
Soon Clementine and her young daughter Allegra are at Peter’s house more and more, where he’s somehow inserting them into his life, and she’s busy cooking in his fabulous kitchen. She loves to cook, was working as a chef in a top restaurant before having Allegra and living in their current home. That’s a tiny terrace in the heart of one of the red light areas of the city, it just doesn’t allow her free rein, nor do her finances. Her next door neighbour has a pit bull – it’s forever throwing itself at the fence, terrifying Allegra while the owner shouts out “shut the F- up” etc. I loved though when Peter got into an altercation with the owner, and it’s revealed the dogs name is Cyril!! Yep – it just doesn’t fit does it? ( A small rant from me here about owners like that – they don’t deserve dogs, they train them to be dangerous for their own warped reasons, and then the poor dogs get to suffer the consequences…) Peters home is a huge change from that, a beautiful, rambling, old building with a myriad of outbuildings and a wonderful garden. His neighbours are David and Amanda, Amanda knows Grace and Harriet and once they meet at a dinner party Peter arranges their lives become irrevocably entwined.
Its a wonderful look at life, at how circumstances shape what happens, about choices we make, about how some people take one route and another goes a different way. I loved Clementine ( and Allegra) and wanted so much for things to work out for them- just when it looks like it will though its all change again, with drama from all corners. Then it gets lightened by such moments as Izzy’s Show and Tell tale…all parents dread those 😉 and what her son took to it, unknown to her. Lets just say its something most mums want to keep hidden from kids, and certainly from Show and Tell. Poor Sid couldn’t understand why Miss Walters didn’t like it, he thought it was lovely, all pink and rubbery and when it buzzed it tickled his hand…..its moments like those that bring light just when things get really intense. Towards the end it was getting like that, Clementine had been through so much, it would have floored a lesser person but she kept on through it doing what was best for the kids, and then she texts back a reply to someone she’s really attracted to. And who hasn’t pressed “send” too soon? We’ve all done it but poor Clementine sends a truncated message that’s way embarrassing. Its raining, she’s been shopping, she’s tired, its a crush on the bus home and she sends “ I’m hot, wet and ready to come” ….. Home, that’s what should have been the final word, Home, but she was too quick, and God, it made me snigger so much. Its the kind of thing I’d do, and then be in agonies of mortification thinking about its reception.
You can read this without needing to read earlier books, but they do link together and when I’ve read the first book, I’m going to reread the next two. ( time, where does it go?) Its a long book at 7000+ locations ( I’d guess around 400 pages), which is great as it really lets Julie delve into plots and issues properly. I’ve read two books this past weekend that have been just 120 ish pages, and they packed so much in such a short space everything felt superficial and unreal. ( I usually avoid short reads for this very reason but didn’t have details when I requested them) Not so here, the people, the events, everything that happened I felt part of it with them, cried when they did and laughed along with them.
As its so long I’d intended to read only half, before going back to another review book I hadn’t finished. That one was quite dark, though I loved it I found it very intense and draining and I wanted to lighten my mood for a while, but I got so engrossed in this story and the characters I couldn’t stop, kept going for just another chapter, and another, until I’d read straight through to the end. I loved it – it does mean today I’ve got the rest of the dark read to finish though, but I’ll just think “show and tell” or texting when I need a smile.
Stars: the magic five for me, a wonderful read and one to keep for rereading
ARC supplied by author for review purposes