Unexpected Lessons in Love by Bernardine Bishop

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Unexpected Lessons in Love by Bernardine Bishop

Buy Unexpected Lessons in Love by Bernardine Bishop at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A sublimely well-written book which leaves you with a warm feeling - and a lot more knowledge about colostomies than you ever thought you'd be delighted to know. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: January 2013
Publisher: John Murray
ISBN: 978-1848547827

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2013 Costa Novel Award shortlist

Cecilia Banks and Helen Gatehouse met by chance in a doctor's waiting room and a friendship developed because they were both cancer survivors, albeit with a colostomy. It was a case of opposites attracting: Cecilia was quiet, reserved, married for the second time and the mother of Ian whom she idolised. Helen had never married, loud in the nicest sense of the word and an author. They gave each other mutual support and an outlet for their preoccupations. People with whom you can discuss the, er, intricacies of your stoma are few and far between! The relationship wasn't entirely uncritical: Helen was less than impressed when Ian dumped (sorry - there's really no other word for it) a baby on his mother. Cephas was the result of a fling he'd had with the child's mother and she'd disappeared. He - a war correspondent - was on his way abroad.

Unexpected Lessons in Love sat on my desk for quite a while: the title and the cover picture put me in mind of chick-lit and I wasn't in the mood. It was only when I had a closer look at the cover and saw a quote from Margaret Drabble that I revised my opinion. Cecilia, you see, is in her late fifties and Helen decently into her sixties. This is a story of how love can appear in the most unexpected of places - between an adult and a child, a child and an animal or two adults who were not expecting to find love at all. It's about how marriages work differently, each with their own accommodations and how parental love will encompass the most unrewarding features of their child.

It's a story too about truth, mental illness, guilt and how people can keep going through unbelievably difficult circumstances, not least because there is no other choice. Does this all sound very worthy, something you're glad other people read? Well, forget that. Begin by thinking about a book which can tell you all about colostomies and leave you smiling and nodding your head in understanding. This is the sort of story which grabs you, pulls you in and won't let you go - but in a very gentle way. The characters are superb. I loved Helen - well-upholstered, as we would say and worrying about how a sexual partner would feel about the colostomy bag. (Which is better? Opaque or transparent?) Or Cecilia, faced with some devastating news about Cephas, whose first reaction is that no one else should be told.

It's wise and it's witty. It's sublimely well-written, not with flowery literary devices but in the sort of prose that leaves you surprised when you realise that you've read a hundred pages and you've no intention of giving up just yet. On a cold winter's day I was left with a warm glow when I finished reading. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

If this book appeals then we think that you might also enjoy Ten Things I've Learnt About Love by Sarah Butler.

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Buy Unexpected Lessons in Love by Bernardine Bishop at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Unexpected Lessons in Love by Bernardine Bishop at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Unexpected Lessons in Love by Bernardine Bishop at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Unexpected Lessons in Love by Bernardine Bishop at Amazon.com.


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