by Karen J Mossman3 out of 5
When life throws you a curve ball, who will there be catch it?
A story of love, loss, betrayal, friendship and kinship set in 1980s Manchester with fashion and music of the day.
Joanna Nelson is trying to escape her past, but is still haunted by it. When her mum suddenly turns up, it brings back memories of being locked in a dark cupboard, of beatings, and of being dressed up like doll. All of which have consequences that she still carries with her. Thank goodness she has a sister and good friends to support her. The trouble is it gets complicated when her best friend is a ‘he’.
Just when Joanna was through the worst, her life is turned upside with something she could never have envisioned. Who of her friends will be there for her? Or will she find herself alone?
Taking a break and visiting her sister is the perfect answer when Joanna breaks up with her cheating boyfriend. How much trouble can a couple of Manucunians get into in London?
I was given an ecopy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review... I kinda want to pre-empt this with a caution - this is not the type of book that I usually read. I thought it was going to be a romance, loving a famous singer, and getting over past hurts. Most romances have one or both leads, damaged some way or another.
But the theme that stands out most for me from this book is abuse. Domestic, bullying, raping, parental... I don't read abuse stories. It is one of my no-go genres.
So, keeping that in mind, let's continue.
I loved the setting. Manchester and London in the 80's. I wanted to back-comb my hair and pull out my purple dress!
But it's not cheesy. I like how honest Mossman is, the working class, the importance of family, the gender roles and relationship expectations of the time. I grew up in the 80's, Up North, and I'll attest to that.
There were sections that showed real promise in Mossman's skill as a storyteller. It wasn't necessarily the most showy parts, or the most plot-worthy; rather it was the parts where the author is clearly enjoying the scene and it just flows and draws you along, without feeling forced.
The abuse! (shush)
Ok, apart from that point.
I didn't really like the main character Joanna. I know she's been through a lot (and goes through a lot more), but she is a very selfish individual.
She discovers that her estranged mother has been beating Joanna's step-sister, when the troubled teenager ends up on her doorstep.
I get that they don't get on, and they have history between them. But to constantly threaten to kick her out when she has nowhere else to go; not bother reporting it to someone official; and dumping responsibility of the girl on her neighbours, when Joanna wants to spend the weekend at her new boyfriends...
Joanna ignores her sister, when Sandie tries to warn her that said new boyfriend has a violent streak. They have a long-distance relationship, and Joanna flips out when he sleeps with someone else, but it's perfectly fine for her to sleep with the famous singer whenever he's in the vicinity.
And everyone around her treats her like this is alright behaviour.
I kinda wish that Mossman had gone a step further, and made Joanna an unlikeable character on purpose, I would have found it fascinating.
The story felt like an autobiography, with the superstar Niko D'Angelo shoved in as wish-fulfilment. I felt like two entirely different stories - one didn't much affect the other, they were very different worlds. Both had their positives, but they didn't work together for me.
The autobiography is the bigger half of the story, and the one I enjoyed most. But it... it needs focussing. This is supposed to be Joanna's story, but it goes on about Jim, Vic, Bob, Doris, Becky, Mick, Ruth... Barbara... Tom, Dick and Harry.
Ok, those names are made up, before anyone nit-picks. But my point is, there's constantly a flood of all the goings-on of minor characters that are never mentioned again, or only referenced once more, half-way through the book, and you're supposed to remember their significance.
That sort of storytelling works when you're watching Coronation Street, but I found that it detracted from the central storylines.
Anyways, to finish on a positive note, I did very much like the conclusion of the story (I'll not spoil it for you!). It was so refreshing to read a story where love isn't the magic answer to everything, and where Joanna finally makes the right decision.