As you may have gathered, I use Goodreads quite a bit.
It does get a bad rep for the occasional author meltdown and sockpuppetery scandals, and the censorship fiasco some time back really didn’t help its cause. But as a free service for keeping track of new releases and books I’ve read, getting book covers and descriptions, and seeing what other people thought of various books, I think it’s fantastic. I know that in return for the “free”service it offers, I generate a good bit of content for Goodreads in terms of reviews, data-mining etc, but to me, that it’s a fair exchange (YMMV).
Also, while there is some overlap between the blogging world and Goodreads, it feels like separate communities? It’s like this blog is my own place with people swinging past to say hi, and Goodreads is my local coffeeshop/pub/insert-your-hangout-place-of-choice where I know there’ll be conversations happening if I feel like wandering down the road (and Twitter is like standing in the middle of a busy and crowded railway station where you may or may not bump into people you know). Was that a terrible analogy? (Don’t feel as though you’ve to answer that.)
And I digress massively, because the purpose of me bringing up Goodreads in the first place was just to say that occasionally, I go to their Giveaways page and click on a few books that catch my eye. But although I’ve been a Goodreads member since 2010 (ack, time flies), I’ve never ever won anything, so to be honest, browsing their giveaways tend to be something I do when I’m killing time on the internet.
Until I got an email saying I’d won an early copy of Cathy Kelly‘s IT STARTED WITH PARIS.
I actually won something. And while I’m not obligated to review the book, in the same spirit of fair exchange, here’s my review.
SUNDAY TIMES bestseller Cathy Kelly returns with a funny, emotional, heart-warming new novel.
It all started with Paris. At the top of the Eiffel Tower, a young man proposes to his girlfriend, cheered on by delighted tourists. In that second, everything changes, not just for the happy couple, but for the family and friends awaiting their return in Bridgeport, Ireland…
Leila’s been nursing a badly broken heart since her love-rat husband just upped and left her one morning, but she’s determined to put on a brave face for the bride.
Vonnie, a widow and exceptional cake-maker, is just daring to let love back into her life, although someone seems determined to stop it.
And Grace, a divorced head teacher, finds the impending wedding of her son means that she’s spending more time with her ex-husband. After all those years apart, is it possible she’s made a mistake?
With her warmth and insight, Cathy Kelly weaves a delightful tale spinning out from a once-in-a-lifetime moment, drawing together a terrific cast of characters who feel like old friends. IT STARTED WITH PARIS is the sparkling new novel from No.1 bestseller Cathy Kelly.
I’ve read quite a few Cathy Kelly books – it’s probably easiest to categorise what she writes as chick-lit, except it’s not really. Woman’s fiction? I’m not sure. And the reason I say that is that I usually steer well clear of both those genres, but I’ve a soft spot for a Kelly book. Here’s what’s normally in one of her books – Irish settings (both cities and small towns), strong friendship, heart-warming romance, a sprinkling of real-life issues (usually seen through slightly rose-tinted lenses, to be fair), and this sense of community woven throughout the story.
Safe to say, IT STARTED WITH PARIS ticked all those boxes. There’s a lovely natural rhythm to Cathy Kelly’s writing, and I was drawn into the story from the very first page. I’m not sure how she does it, but she has a knack for making you care about each and every character, even when there are numerous people and POVs. The back cover copy names three protagonists, but each of them had their own circle of friends and family, all interlinked and with stories of their own. So not only did we have Leila, there’s her sister Susie, who’s struggling as a single mother, and their mum, who’s in hospital after a car accident and coming to grips with her loss of independence. And their lives are intertwined in various ways with Vonnie and Grace, and their own relatives, and well, you get the idea. And yet, I never felt lost or confused once – each character was very deftly sketched, and had personalities of their own.
Having said that, a Kelly trademark is how she weaves together multiple subplots to become one, and I think here, some storylines suffered from not having enough page time – specifically I felt that Ruby’s issues were resolved a bit too easily. (I know, you’re wondering who Ruby is and how she fits into the picture – but that’s part of a charm of a Kelly, the almost-organic way her stories expand to cover this whole community.) In addition, while some plot lines had incredibly satisfying endings (you’ll know which one when you read it – all I’ll say is that I was mentally cheering [redacted] on), I had mixed feelings on the outcome of another. But those are minor niggles, and I ended up finishing the book in a single day.
IT STARTED WITH PARIS was a delightful read, and one I suspect will be perfect for whiling away a quiet rainy autumn afternoon.
ARC courtesy of Goodreads/publisher giveaway.