Getting Away With It by Julie Cohen
|Getting Away With It by Julie Cohen
|Category: Women's Fiction
|Reviewer: Ruth Ng
|Summary: Wonderfully woven, a powerful and cinematic story that I found very moving.
|Date: October 2010
|Publisher: Headline Review
Julie Cohen's latest book is a different creature to her previous novels. It's not just that it's longer, although the length allows for more characterisation and trickier, complex plots than her Little Black Dress books, but it also feels different in style. There's the same quirky side that Julie writes so well - the heroine this time is a stunt woman, some bizarre ice cream flavours and there's some interesting crop-circle action! But the book feels more serious - more grown up somehow - yet just as readable and compelling as her previous stories have been.
So, the story basics in a nutshell are that Liza ran away from her home, a quiet little English village, years ago and she escaped to LA for the thrills and spills of a life as a stunt woman. However, when things get a little bit too dangerous she finds herself heading back home to her twin sister. When she gets there she finds that Lee, her twin, has run away. Liza is left to cope with their ailing mother, the Haven ice cream business, and Lee's rather gorgeous boyfriend. Rather than telling everyone who she is straight away, she inadvertently finds herself pretending to be Lee and discovers that she rather likes being the good twin for once.
As with Nina Jones and the Temple of Gloom, I found that I didn't like the heroine to begin with, although I was drawn to her sister Lee, which pretty much parallels how things are in life for these two characters. (By the way, I almost typed 'real life' then, just so you know how involved I get in these books!) But the more I got to know about Liza, the more I understood her and loved her. Equally I began to feel differently about Lee, seeing through the nice-girl facade and no longer feeling sorry for her because she had such a bad twin sister to put up with, but because she hadn't been living her life honestly. Both twins have been lying; both feeling isolated and unfulfilled.
There's plenty of humour in the situation of Liza pretending to be her twin, living her life for her, and you can see how easily the book could have turned into a comedic romp, yet it's so cleverly and realistically balanced. Overriding the fun of mistaken identity is an emotional journey for Liza as she discovers the truth about her sister's life and begins to face up to the realities of her own identity - the person she's been running away from, and the person she actually is or wants to be. The cutesy, butterfly-strewn cover belies the true nature of this book, which is about more important things that girly shopping quandaries (as fun as they can be). This is a story with heart and happiness, but also has a deep and moving sadness to it too. How can it not, when at the heart of the novel is a mother with Alzheimer's? The story walks a fine line, moving carefully between the moments of humour and the moments of anger, frustration and desperate sadness that arise from having a family member with this condition, perhaps especially so because it's their mother. Mother-daughter relationships are almost always complicated anyway, even without the added difficulties that Alzheimer's creates. Some of the most awkward, touching moments I felt were between Liza and her mother, real lump-in-the-throat moments.
Reading the book felt like watching a really good movie - one of those movies that magically weaves sadness and happiness together, so that you know you've been moved and taken to some pretty dark places, but you still come away happy and hopeful. Actually, it's crying out to be made into a film - with Liza's stunt action, the cinematic scenes around the stone circle in her home village, not to mention the car chase at the end - I want to be able to tell you more about the story, because there are such sweet moments, and little twists and funny observations, but there's so much I can't say without spoiling it for you. You'll just have to read it for yourself!
Getting Away With It is a book about family and identity, about both losing and finding yourself, about running away and coming home. The last three chapters are an absolutely perfect roller coaster mix of awful, heartbreaking sadness, mad-dash action and satisfying, romantic resolution. I can't wait for her next book!
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.
Further reading suggestion: If you've never read any of Julie Cohen's books before, then it's worth going back to read her earlier stories, including Nina Jones and the Temple of Gloom. You might also like to try Anybody Out There? by Marian Keyes and An Offer You Can't Refuse by Jill Mansell.
You can read more book reviews or buy Getting Away With It by Julie Cohen at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy Getting Away With It by Julie Cohen at Amazon.com.
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