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Book Review: Something to Live For by Richard Roper #FindYourSomething

Richard Roper’s debut novel, Something to Live For, is a surprisingly endearing, funny and moving story about loneliness and the people who fall through the cracks in their own lives.

Sometimes you have to risk everything to find your something…

All Andrew wants is to be normal. He has the perfect wife and 2.4 children waiting at home for him after a long day. At least, that’s what he’s told people.

The truth is, his life isn’t exactly as people think and his little white lie is about to catch up with him.

Because in all Andrew’s efforts to fit in, he’s forgotten one important thing: how to really live. And maybe, it’s about time for him to start.

Richard Roper’s main character has an unusual job, one which most of us would consider to be something of a thankless task, that is, if we gave it any thought at all or even knew of its existence. Andrew chooses to go beyond what’s required under his job description and, in his own small way, lends some dignity and humanity to the lives of people he doesn’t know and who will never know what he does for them. I found this incredibly touching and warmed to him almost immediately for the kindness he shows these strangers.

Richard Roper writes them with sensitivity and humour, especially when Peggy arrives on the scene, but I still found some of the description of living conditions, not least Andrew’s own, difficult to read. It saddened me to think of people coming to exist in this way.

Peggy. Oh, how I loved and adored the character of Peggy. Even when she is facing her own challenges and dealing with what life throws at her, she still has time to listen and be there for others. She is a kind, beautiful soul who manages to find the joy and humour in everyday life. I hope everyone knows one. We all need a Peggy in our lives. And if you don’t know one, perhaps you can try and be someone else’s Peggy? Read more

Book Review: The Most Difficult Thing by Charlotte Philby

Charlotte Philby found the inspiration behind her debut novel in a question that arose from her grandfather’s notorious defection to Russia in 1963: what kind of person walks out on their family?

On the surface, Anna Witherall personifies everything the aspirational magazine she works for represents. Married to her university boyfriend David, she has a beautiful home and gorgeous three-year-old twin daughters, Stella and Rose. But beneath the veneer of success and happiness, Anna is hiding a dark secret, one that threatens to unravel everything she has worked so hard to create.

As Anna finds herself drawn into the dark and highly controlled world of secret intelligence, she is forced to question her family’s safety, and her own. Only one thing is certain: in order to protect her children, she must leave them, forever. 

And someone is watching. Someone she thought she could trust. Someone who is determined to make them all pay.

Charlotte Philby recruits a young woman as her spy in The Most Difficult Thing, exploring the relationships she has, how the lines blur between what is real and what might be role-play, or even manipulative behaviour, on someone else’s part. When that woman becomes a mother, she examines whether maternal instincts automatically kick in, especially where childbirth and the postpartum period aren’t easy. She also considers the decision to break ties and whether it’s any more difficult for a mother to leave her children than it is for a father to walk out on his family.

The actual business interests that form the subject of the espionage were a little sketchy and confusing at times but this didn’t bother me too much because I found them to be of secondary interest to the web of relationships around Anna, who is at the heart of the novel.

This is where The Most Difficult Thing works particularly well and comes into its own. I thoroughly enjoyed trying to untangle all the relationships and work out who was playing it straight, who was not to be trusted or potentially spying on someone else or possibly even playing a double game, who might be paranoid or controlling, or who might simply be concerned for the children of the house and/or someone else’s welfare.

It’s difficult to work out if or how far Anna goes native, to what extent she makes conscious decisions affecting her life, and how much she remembers she has been recruited for a specific purpose. It’s also hard to gauge how much others suspect or know what she’s doing, who for and why. It was satisfying to see how it all unravels by the end. The Most Difficult Thing is an edgy family drama with its tangle of relationships unspooling in a clammy climate of deception and mistrust.

The Most Difficult Thing by Charlotte Philby is published by The Borough Press, a Harper Collins imprint. It is available as an audiobook, ebook and in hardback, with the paperback due out next year. You can find it at Amazon UK or buy it from Hive instead, where each purchase helps support your local independent bookshop. For more information on Charlotte Philby and her work, visit her Author Website or you can find her on Twitter.  

My thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy via NetGalley.

Croeso. Welcome to Nut Press.

This is the online home of Kathryn Eastman. I’m a rugby-loving, tea-drinking chocoholic book squirrel and writer, who lives on a hill, that wanted to be a mountain, in Wales.

The Nut Press is full of book reviews, chocolate, adventures with squirrels, and a lot of tea drinking among other things. Oh, and very occasionally, some writing gets done.

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