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Book Review: One More Chance by Lucy Ayrton

Lucy Ayrton’s One More Chance is one of four books helping to launch Little, Brown imprint Dialogue Books this year. It’s an imprint dedicated to introducing wider diversity and more inclusivity by giving a voice to those often overlooked by mainstream publishing. And here, that voice belongs to a young mother in Holloway prison.

Dani hasn’t had an easy life. She’s made some bad choices and now she’s paying the ultimate price; prison.

With her young daughter Bethany, growing up in foster care, Dani is determined to be free and reunited with her. There’s only one problem; Dani can’t stay out of trouble.

Dani’s new cellmate Martha is quiet and unassuming. There’s something about her that doesn’t add up. When Martha offers Dani one last chance at freedom, she doesn’t hesitate.

Everything she wants is on the outside, but Dani is stuck on the inside. Is it possible to break out when everyone is trying to keep you in . . .

I struggled initially with Dani as the main protagonist, feeling frustrated by her attitude and constant truculence, while finding myself distracted by other characters, in particular queen bee Chris and the altogether more mysterious Martha.

However, as Dani’s backstory is drip fed to us, it helped me begin to understand her, how she ends up where she does and why she behaves in this way. And by the end of the book, I grudgingly admired her and even felt ever so slightly hopeful for the future. So all credit to Lucy Ayrton’s writing for effecting this transition in Dani and my reaction to her.

There are some more mystical elements to the story which I chose to go along with partly because I figured Dani sees them as something to pass the time but which also feed on her personal circumstances and desperation to see her little girl. It’s up to you how you view them and how much weight you attach.

Where Lucy Ayrton very nearly lost me was in the scene at a park where a key absence goes unexplained, and I did tire of people staring at each other and how loaded with meaning each of those stares were.

Prison life is by its very nature going to be repetitive but I think Lucy Ayrton otherwise does a pretty good job of counteracting that here. It’s helped along by a subtle and intriguing subplot playing out in the background, as well as the following nice touches: 

Dani’s fixation with the crack in the ceiling above her head makes you wonder if everything is going to come crashing down around her or not; her kid’s photos on the wall and the obvious enjoyment Dani gets from a small bar of chocolate both highlight how little she has to cling to; the way she carefully extracts her new cellmate’s story is telling and has all the more impact as a result; while the run ins they have with Chris and her gang add menace as well as a sense of urgency to the story.

There’s also great symmetry in the queen bee scenes that bookend the main story which made me smile and underlined how cyclical (even prison) life can be.

This book works for me because Lucy Ayrton persuaded me to give Dani that all-important One More Chance by hearing her out and listening to her story. Why not do the same? It’s well worth it.

One More Chance by Lucy Ayrton is published by Dialogue Books, a Little, Brown imprint. It’s out today, and is available as an audiobook and an ebook and in paperback. Find it here on Amazon UK or on Hive where any purchase supports your local independent bookshop. 

Lucy Ayrton is Communications Manager of a prisons charity, and much of One More Chance is informed by the people she has met and the time she has spent in prisons, especially on the Holloway Mother and Baby Unit. This is her first novel, and it was a finalist for the Exeter Novel Award. For more on Lucy and her writing and for social media links, visit her Author Website.

My thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy for review. 

*GIVEAWAY* I have one copy of One More Chance to give away. Leave a comment below and tell me what you’d do if you had one more chance at anything.  

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