This is Your Life, Harriet Chance! by Jonathan Evison

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This is Your Life, Harriet Chance! by Jonathan Evison

Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Is it a love story (in a rather odd way)? Or an exploration of family relationships? It's a great story, well told.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: February 2016
Publisher: Windmill Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0099592679

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The cruise to Alaska came as something of a surprise to Harriet Chance. It had been booked by her husband, Bernard, before his death and almost on a whim Harriet decided that she would go and take her best friend Mildred along with her. She might be seventy eight, but when she thought about it there didn't seem to be any reason not to go and it might give them both a new lease of life. She and Bernard had been married for fifty-five years, but the cruise would not work out as she hoped and for some of the strangest of reasons.

Firstly, Bernard kept appearing. No - this wasn't the usual wishful thinking of the newly bereaved. Bernard really did join Harriet and it didn't just start on the cruise: it had happened a couple of times before. Then Mildred dropped out of the holiday and her reason was a bombshell to Harriet as Mildred had a confession to make. It reminded me of my long-held view that confession might be good for the soul but it's frequently bad for the person to whom the confession is made and people would sometimes do well to hold their tongues and allow their souls to suffer the consequences. Harriet was determined to go on the cruise by herself, but was joined by her daughter Caroline, an occurrence which was never better than a mixed blessing.

The cover of this book misleads: firstly it looks as though it's going to be light reading - and it's anything but. You see, we're going to share some flashbacks with Harriet as she looks at pivotal moments in her life - the events which have made her into what she is today. And what is she? Well, she's an elderly (nothing you can do about that...) lady whose tolerance for alcohol is occasionally less than her consumption. Initially I was annoyed by this aspect, but later events (or rather, earlier events, if you see what I mean) would explain Harriet's sense of guilt, how biddable she could be on occasions and why alcohol was a refuge - which also, in a roundabout way, explained why Mildred had a lot to feel guilty about.

For me, the cover mislead in another way too. Maria Semple describes This is Your Life, Harriet Chance! as hilarious. I thought it was sad. Had Harriet been given a good listening to as a child, her life might have turned out so differently. Jonathan Evison's writing is sharp and compelling, turning the pages almost more quickly than you can read, and there are plenty of times when you're going to smile at how he nudges Harriet from one situation to another and expertly plays with your emotions - but I never laughed. I felt Harriet deserved better!

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

Speaking of Maria Semple, we did rather enjoy her Where'd You Go, Bernadette.

Buy This is Your Life, Harriet Chance! by Jonathan Evison at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy This is Your Life, Harriet Chance! by Jonathan Evison at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy This is Your Life, Harriet Chance! by Jonathan Evison at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy This is Your Life, Harriet Chance! by Jonathan Evison at Amazon.com.


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