Today I’m delighted to share my thoughts on The Staycation, the latest novel from MIchele Gorman. Now I don’t read a lot of books outside of the Crime genre, but when I do Michele is one of my go to authors. With my thanks to the author and publisher Trapeze for the early copy of the book, here’s what it’s all about:
About the Book
Two families. One cancelled flight. And a last minute house swap…Available from: Amazon | Kobo | Waterstones | Googleplay | Apple Books
Things get desperate for strangers Harriet and Sophie when they become stranded with their families in Heathrow’s Terminal 5. Each woman has her own reason for really really really needing the family holiday they’ve anticipated for months. But Iceland’s volcano has other plans for them. When their flights are cancelled, the families swap houses and discover that sometimes the best things in life happen close to home.
This ash cloud has a silver lining, even if no one can quite see it yet.
I think the concept of the ‘staycation’ is something we can all relate to right now. So many holiday plans being cancelled left right and centre and without the option that presents itself to Harriet and Sophie when they meat quite by chance at the airport. With a volcanic ash cloud cancelling their Italian getaways, they quickly hatch and surprising but ultimately fruitful plan. To swap houses. Harriet and her family get the city break she has dreamed of, albeit London and not Rome, and Sophie gets her peaceful spa break – in a small goat farm in rural Gloucestershire. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, all and nothing as it turns out. This is a story packed with poignant moments, laughter, family time and a whole heap of self discovery. And it’s a whole heap of fun to read.
Now you could not two more contrasting characters than Harriet and Sophie. Harriet is a successful solicitor whose husband’s life evolves around goat farming. They shouldn’t work as a pair – they are absolutely chalk and cheese. He is calm, laid back and accommodating. Harrier is brisk, efficient, a little uptight and uber-organised to the point of OCD. And then there is Sophie. She is a little more chaotic, perhaps seeming a little ditzy when we first meet her, her characteristics more akin to Harriet’s husband, James, than her own . She is a ‘kept woman’ whose husband, Dan, is more focused on work than on his family, treating them as a work list to tick off in a functional manner rather than someone he will dedicate real time to. For him the break being cancelled means an opportunity to return to work. For Sophie it means a new beginning.
What I love about Michele Gorman’s writing is that she is able to take a situation, more or less everyday (although I admit I would balk at the idea of letting my house out to a complete stranger) and turn it into something that is fun, full of light humour, but also has a journey of self-discovery at the heart. This is definitely the case here with both Sophie and Harriet ending up very different women to the ones we first meet. Okay, Harrier isn’t that different, but then a leopard can’t be expected to completely change its spots now, can it? There we so many scenes that made me smile, especially when Harrier took to ordering a labelling machine so that she could reorganise Sophie’s house and make it more ‘efficient’. You wouldn’t think it possible, but it really did just fit her character to a tee. In fact, worryingly, I saw more than a little of myself in the workaholic, militantly organised Harriet. Only as far as excursions and planning, obviously. I really do not do organised housework …
There were little things about both of the women in the story that did take a time to warm up to. Harriet’s over efficient nature was grating at times. Although she had good intent throughout, sometimes it was just really badly executed. However you would be a hard hearted person not to smile when she tries to embrace her daughter’s announcement, accompanying her on a, how should I put it, very different day trip to Brighton. Sophie grated for another reason – she was just too accommodating. To Harriet’s pushy nature and her husband’s overbearing dominance. That family dynamic was obvious from the start and I’ll admit, it got my hackles up. And yet, it was authentic and something that is sadly all too common, Whilst there is no hint of violence, the way in which Dan treats Sophie is unpalatable.
The author captures the contrast not only between the characters, but the settings perfectly. It is easy to see why Harriet struggles in the rural setting and why Sophie feels out of her depth in the city. You get a real feel for difference between a life where everything is just a tube ride away and the small village where everyone knows not only everyone’s name, but also there business. Even down to the kind of pets they have you couldn’t get anything more opposing. There is James with an entire herd of goats and Sophie who has Spot. I really liked Spot (although, a bit like Harriet, I’m not sure I’d want to live with him full time). He goes missing for a short time, and when and where he pops back up is not only hilarious but also potentially a little trauma inducing 😳
This is a fun summer interlude, an example of two families making the best of a very bad situation. And if you are looking for a light, fun and hope filled read, something that will take you away from the stresses and strains of current affairs and allow you to laugh a little, this could definitely be the book for you. Take the plunge and see what fun you could have with a ‘staycation’.
About the Author
Michele is a USA Today bestselling author and has sold more than 450,000 copies globally across all formats, with seven novels published by Penguin Random House and HarperCollins. She was born in the US and now makes London home, writing comedies under her own name and cosy rom-coms as Lilly Bartlett.
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