Nina Jones and the Temple of Gloom by Julie Cohen

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Nina Jones and the Temple of Gloom by Julie Cohen

Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: Funny and quirky and compelling and intelligent - chick lit at its best!
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: March 2010
Publisher: Little Black Dress
ISBN: 978-0755341412

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A sign of a good book, for me, often relates to how easily I can put it down. And then how much I want to pick it back up again. Nina Jones was a particular challenge for me as after reading it for an hour whilst my toddler napped I kept my thumb in the page whilst getting her out of bed, snuck her downstairs still saving my page, put on Cbeebies, and then sat next to her on the sofa to carry on reading for at least another hour, if not a little bit more than that. I then kept it in the kitchen so I could sneak a few more pages in between stirring the spaghetti. And then once my daughter was in bed I went on to absently ignore my poor, tired, over-worked husband (who got bored and went for a bath) so that I could read on to the end of the story. I found myself mentally yelling at a fictional character (I hope it was mentally and I wasn't actually shouting out loud...we have very thin walls), I swooned over the hero, sniggered often and I even cried a little bit too. So, a book that induces such family neglect and an emotional roller coaster of emotions is definitely a good read!

Unusually for a chick lit novel my favourite characters were actually secondary ones. There's an elderly lady called Evangeline whom I adored. I really, really want to live next door to her and her husband, and more importantly I would like her to have her own book because she's just fabulous. I also really liked Nina's friend, Pet, who made me laugh and who, for a while, I hoped might end up being the story's heroine since when it came to Nina herself, well, I actually didn't like her at all for perhaps the first third of the book. I found this a little bit perturbing because generally you're supposed to like the heroine, aren't you? Or at least identify with her in some way. But Nina just made me cross, and just when I would start to think that maybe she was OK she'd do something stupid again and I'd start yelling again. In my head.

She's a really maddening character, but I was so caught up in the story I found that I wanted to know more. Why was she like that? I suppose some readers might be a bit unsure about reading a book where you don't really like the person it's about, but if that's the case then you really should trust me on this one and just have a quiet shout to yourself about Nina's silly behaviour and then keep on reading because actually, by the end, I really liked Nina. I can't tell you why because I don't want to ruin it for you, but really, it's worth it. I promise. And it makes it a really great story, to see everything that Nina goes through and what that does to her and how it makes you feel about her, and then you finally start to see the truth unravel so that you understand later why she is the person that she is and how maybe you might be friends with her after all. If she was, you know, real.

It's tricksy in many ways, this book, as you think initially Nina is one of those shallow chick lit heroines who is all shoes...blah blah...shopping...blah blah...London clubbing...blah blah but then you get the feeling that actually, maybe there's something else going on. And the further you get drawn into the story the more you find that no-one is quite who they seemed to be. Not the crazy bat freak or the struggling father or the happily married couple or Nina. And even places behave differently, so that sunny Spain turns sweaty and sour and a bat watch in Highgate cemetery at dusk sees some rather heated passion amongst the gravestones...

Anyway, it's a story about Nina, whose seemingly fabulous, successful life begins to show cracks until it disintegrates around her in spectacular fashion. She goes from almost having everything to having nothing at all and winds up living in a dark, foreboding old house she names 'The Temple of Gloom'. Somehow, in the midst of fighting off spiders, starvation and the strange vampire living upstairs she discovers who she really is, or rather who she wants to be. The truth slowly reveals itself, about Nina, and about her friends and family. This is chick lit with brains, in a good way, and totally worth ditching all familial responsibilities to read it through right to the very last page.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Further reading suggestion: For more well-written chick lit you can't go wrong with Wedding Season by Katie Fforde or Anybody Out There? by Marian Keyes.

Buy Nina Jones and the Temple of Gloom by Julie Cohen at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Nina Jones and the Temple of Gloom by Julie Cohen at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Nina Jones and the Temple of Gloom by Julie Cohen at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Nina Jones and the Temple of Gloom by Julie Cohen at Amazon.com.


Bookinterviews.jpg Julie Cohen was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.

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