The One Plus One – Jojo Moyes

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The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

The One Plus One is one of those books which is instantly likeable from the off. It’s not a slow burner where you get to page 156 and think ‘yeah this book is actually alright’, it immediately hits you and leaves you unable to put the book down (or it did in my case).

I haven’t read what my mother would call ‘a nice little book’ in ages. This is a novel which doesn’t require you to be on 10 lots of Berocca or have a politics degree to understand it. I’s so heart-warming and has a lovely message.

Jess is a single mother of one and has acquired a step-son from her ‘depressed’ ex-partner. She struggles to make ends meet and divides her time between working in a pub and cleaning holiday cottages which leaves little time to see her kids, oh and Norman the dog. However she is an eternal optimist, always believing there is something better around the corner.

Ed is a high-flying City worker with a ginormous pay packet to boot. He has had little to worry about and seems to be oblivious to the real world around him. But now his wife has left him, his father is terminally ill and there’s the small matter of a jail sentence he could be facing for insider trading.

The pair first meet when Jess cleans Ed’s holiday home. She thinks he’s rude and obnoxious; he is oblivious and just sees her as his cleaner. One night when Jess takes a paralytic Ed home from the pub, he drops £500 which Jess takes, convincing herself she will pay it back.

Jess’s daughter Tanzie is a talented maths student and so the family head off to Scotland so she can take an exam, which if she passes will help pay her scholarship fees for private school. But they are soon pulled over by the police and a passing Ed offers to take the family to Aberdeen.

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What follows is a hilarious and tear-jerking journey involving sleeping in a car, a dodgy kebab, dog slobber and a puking child. Jess and Ed soon grow close and realise that in fact opposites do attract but there’s still that matter of £500 to pay back.

The One Plus One is a beautifully written book and has everything you could want in a novel – romance, humour, tears and most importantly life lessons. I read the 500-page book in five days needless to say I could not put it down. I don’t think I have read a book in so long where I genuinely did not want it to finish. This is the first book by Jojo Moyes which I have read and I am definitely going to explore her backlist titles.

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The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

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The Miniaturist – Jessie Burton

There has been so much hype around The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton since it was published last year. A book about a doll’s house which can predict the future, how would that make a serious 400+ page novel I thought?

I thought it was going to be one of those books which everyone is mad for expect for me – which does often happen. (It has been shortlisted for the National Book Awards and is Waterstones’ Book of the Year). This time I was pleasantly surprised.

The Miniaturist is set in Amsterdam in the 1600s. Young Nella Oortman marries the wealthy, older merchant Johannes Brandt knowing little about him or his business. His younger sister Marin scares Nella with her sharp-tongue and scornful ways but Nella’s life is changed forever when Johannes gives her a doll’s house as a wedding present.

The miniaturist sends Nella figurines of the people in her life which seem to predict and serve as a warning about the future. From her husband’s secret homosexual activities and his subsequent death to Marin’s baby with a black servant in the house, the miniaturist can predict everything which will come crashing down in Nella’s life.

What I admired about the book was the author’s creation of the characters. Johannes is introduced to us as a brash, un-loving husband who is more concerned about his business than Nella. As the novel progresses we learn that he is in fact homosexual and has relations with a young boy who eventually back stabs him by saying Johannes assaulted which ultimately leads to his death. By the end of the tale I felt sorry for Johannes, as he is shown as a victim rather than the astute business man we thought he was. His tragic ending ironically brings him closer to Nella.

The character of Marin too is very unforgiving in the beginning of the book but again by the end Burton shows her to be humble and appreciative towards the help Nella and maid Cornelia offer her when she is in need.

It’s a book which has tragedy after tragedy in each chapter but oddly enough I could not put it down. Burton has created a novel full of misery but one which offers hope at the end by teaching us it’s those who perhaps we perceive to be weak and young which are the most courageous of them all.

I can’t quite believe this is a debut novel, it feels as though Burton has been writing for years. Oh and I totally ‘get’ the hype around it now and encourage you all to read it.

 

Oh and here’s the books I got for Christmas, cannot wait to start reading them all!

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Lady Chatterley’s Lover – D. H. Lawrence

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Lady Chatterley’s Lover – D. H. Lawrence

When the festive period hits I tend to gravitate towards the classics, Dickens at Christmas is always a favourite! I bought Lady Chatterley’s Lover way back in the spring and decided what’s better than reading a classic tale by the fire with a cup of tea? Answer: nothing.

 

I had a bit of background knowledge about Lady Chatterley’s Lover – the obscenity trials and the banning of the book – but I didn’t know exactly how the plot evolved. My mum said she saw a TV adaptation of the book starring Sean Bean in the early nineties and described it as ‘what I call saucy’. Yes, they were the words she used. After all this I was convinced the book would be tame (spoiler – I was wrong).

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The young and confident Constance Chatterley marries the older and disabled Sir Clifford. Unable to fulfil her curiosity and emotional and physical needs he encourages her to have an affair under the unwritten rule of having it with a man of the same class. Connie falls madly and deeply in love with the Chatterley’s gamekeeper Mellors, a working class Yorkshire man. Despite the vast difference in their wealth and class, Connie has a new lease of life and learns more about the world and the class divide than she thought possible.

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Not happy with just writing about an affair D. H. Lawrence also brings up the subject of divorce. We learn that Mellors (and Connie) have had multiple sexual partners and he was married to an argumentative and brash woman before WWI.

 

Connie urges him to seek a divorce so they can be together but once his estranged wife learns of Mellors’ affair with a middle class woman she refuses to grant him a divorce. Rumours soon begin to swirl about Mellors and Connie’s affair and Clifford soon sacks Mellors although he is unsure at this stage if the rumours are true. The couple then plan to runaway once Connie discovers she’s pregnant with Mellors’ baby. The book ends with both Connie telling Sir Clifford about her unborn child’s paternity and the lovers trying to obtain divorces from their spouse. The reader is left to make up their minds about whether or not the lovers are triumphant.

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The book is far ahead of it’s time, I was shocked by how graphic it was even in the modern age. It openly discusses sex and all the emotions (or lack of) which come with it from not only Mellors’ point of view but more importantly Connie’s. This was at a time when many women were still under the illusion they had to ‘lie back and think of England’. I loved that Connie wanted more out of life than a marriage to Sir Clifford and was not afraid to break the ‘rules’.

 

A book about breaking down sexual politics and class structures its features were way ahead of its time and paved the way for today’s adult novels. This is a book everyone should read.