I am so enjoying doing more book reviews here on the blog. I am an avid reader by nature and always have been - a lovely of words and a definite propensity to hoover up knowledge means I'm never happier than when curled up with a book. I read in bed, in the bath, outside, inside, on the tube (I would blush to tell you how many times I've missed a stop or been given a very odd look as I cry, giggle, or guffaw my way through a few chapters).
I always think I'm lucky too, because of the breadth of books I like. My natural nosiness (TM: my mother) / inquisitive nature (TM: my grandmother) means I'm happy to skip from genre to genre. A thriller there, some nonfiction here; a nice bit of historical fiction now, some self-help later. When it comes to my comfort zone, however, it has to be chicklit.
Side note: I both love and loathe the 'chicklit' label.
I love it because it's very effective at describing the books I enjoy, full of interesting, fun characters, well plotted storylines, drama, sadness and mirth. I love it because some of my favourite authors (Jojo Moyes, Cecelia Ahern, Helen Fielding) have written the most amazing, treasurable (is treasurable a word?) books in this particular genre. Heavens even the novel I'm working on (slowly) is a chicklit one! The label, as tricky as it may be, is simply the best describer we have at the moment: 'books for women' sounds a little staid, and 'women's lit' sounds like a university course. So chicklit it will have to be for now.
I loathe the label because it conjures up acres of pastel covers with identical fonts and near-identical titles. I hate it because some of the books I've flung with the most vehemence across a room have been 'chicklit'. I despair of a genre where I once read a book where an author spent 7 pages describing an outfit. An everyday day outfit. When I want that, I'll read Vogue (and when I do want that, I do read Vogue!); in a book I want story, characters, plot, drama, not a list of what's in a character's closet. If I want wardrobe envy, I can always watch Real Housewives....
Okay, I'll get off my soapbox now, and actually get on to the review!
Martini Henry is a lovely little book. It's fun, warm, quirky, and full of many of the things that make me so fond of chicklit - well-drawn characters, amusing subplots, and an interesting setting (crumbling ancestral home? Check). It's a deliciously gentle book too, perfect for settling down with for an hour or so after a long busy day - I read most of it curled up on a sofa with a G&T and a small furry cat (Leela loves reading time), thoroughly enjoying being whisked away to a world before mobiles and the internet. It's gentle in the nicest possible way - Crowe writes in a lovely, languid, unhurried way that moves the plot on nicely but also takes the time to do plenty of showing as well as telling.
Sue, the central character of the novel, is such a sweetheart and through her journal entries and correspondence we get to know this budding writer well. She's naive and unworldy, but also warm, caring and sweet - you cannot help but want her to succeed and achieve her happy ending. I loved the little 'to do' lists and historical factlets that cropped up in the narrative too - it's a little Bridget Jones, a little Adrian Mole.
I would heartily recommend this book to anyone looking for a fun, enjoyable summer read - there's enough mystery and plot to keep one entertained, but it's also a cheerful and relaxing romp - Sara Crowe does the hard work so the reader can just sit back and enjoy. I'd give Martini 4 stars out of five - I loved my time with the characters. If you enjoyed books such as Love, Nina or the quirky, unpredictable chacters of authors such as Nick Hornby, I think you'll enjoy this book.
Thank you to Transworld for the complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.