When You Read This by Mary Adkins
|When You Read This by Mary Adkins|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: An epistolary novel which really works. Delightfully humorous and insightful. A recommended read.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 384/7h34m||Date: February 2018|
|Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton|
|External links: Author's website|
Smith Simonyi and Iris Massey worked together for four years, during which time Iris left her husband at the altar on their wedding day. Smith, meanwhile, relied on Iris, but his attention was on making enough money to cover his mother's nursing home fees in Wisconsin, running the branding agency in New York and losing money gambling when the pressures got too much for him. He was devastated when Iris developed a terminal cancer and died at the age of thirty three. He was surprised too when he discovered that Iris had been writing a blog in the last six months of her life and her final request of Smith is that he gets the blog published as a book.
It's not just finding a publisher that's difficult for Smith: he has to contend with Iris's big sister, Jade, who works as a chef in a two-Michelin-star restaurant. Jade's not keen on the idea of a book being published, not least because there are references to herself in the book which she's not keen on. It's not that they're critical: it's more that Jade realises that she could have been more supportive of and more interested in her young sister. But Jade's got a lot on her mind too. The job's very stressful. Then there's her mother back in Virginia, who's not as stable as she might be, but then she never has been that stable. Iris and Jade's childhood was spent living in hotels and moving from town to town every few months. It develops resilience but creates nothing in the way of lasting friendships or the talent for them.
You're probably thinking that it sounds like a good story, but what's the USP? Well, it's written entirely in the form of communications between the main characters. We get emails, text messages, phone messages - in fact just about every form of modern communication except snail mail. It's an epistolary novel for the technological age and when I started reading this worried me. Few epistolary novels make it to publication for very good reasons: they're frequently more about form than function. The next worry was that this is Mary Adkins' debut novel: could a quirky novel in the hands of an inexperienced author live up to expectations?
Well, it surpassed my expectations with flying colours. From the subject matter you might expect that reading the book would amount to taking your pleasures rather too sadly, but I was delighted by the humour in the plot. It's gentle, subtle humour which makes you smile. I loved the emails from Jade's online therapist: there's a running gag there which caught me every time. Characterisation's great. I wasn't too keen on either Jade or Smith to begin with and I knew that Smith's intern, Carl, was going to annoy the hell out of me, except I began to understand why they were the way that they were, to like them and finally, to worry about them even when I'd long finished the book.
I loved the book and I know that it's one I'll return to before too long, to pick up on all the gems which I'm sure I've missed. I'll be on the lookout for Adkins' next book too. I'd like to thank the publishers for making a copy available to the Bookbag.
You could get a free audio download of When You Read This by Mary Adkins with a 30-day Audible free trial at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy When You Read This by Mary Adkins at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy When You Read This by Mary Adkins at Amazon.com.
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