Wednesday, 3 February 2016

The Two Connie's and a Repetitive Choice

January has been a busy month in the Tee household. Between going back to school, starting a new job (my husband), studying and handing in assignments, and organising new childcare for my youngest, there hasn’t been much spare time! 

I have, however, managed to fit in a few good reads I’d like to share with you. The Taxidermist’s Daughter by Kate Mosse, You Choose by Pippa Goodhart and Nick Sharratt, and Us by David Nicholls. 

My Read 

Full of atmosphere and chilling events, The Taxidermist’s Daughter is a beautifully written, gothic horror. Set in Sussex in 1912 and written across just one summer, it tells the story of Connie Gifford, the daughter of a taxidermist. Her father’s business is all but run into the ground due to his addiction to alcohol which he uses to escape from his past. Connie is just about keeping the business afloat under the guise of her fathers’ name. 

During one particular summers evening, Connie decides to follow her father on one of his midnight jaunts and what she witnesses chills her to the bone. 

A few days later, a body washes up from the stream at the bottom of her garden and her father disappears. 

Her disbelief at her father’s involvement in what is clearly a murder case Connie tries to find evidence to prove her fathers innocence, only the arrival of Harry Woolston offers a welcome distraction. 

It soon becomes clear that Connie and Harry’s involvement goes beyond their own relationship, when they find out that their father’s met more than a decade before. When Harry’s father goes missing too, they start to uncover a long-hidden, dark secret, encompassing both Connie’s and Harry’s families.

The book anthropomorphises the image of the bird in such a way that it encompasses the entire story. The story begins with Connie dissecting and stuffing a bird in her workshop; throughout the book the bird is used as signify death or trouble, with them gathering in trees or on roofs close to significant events; whilst I won’t spoil the ending, the book ends with an obvious and sinister aversion to birds as well. 

The weather is also a key player in this atmospheric thriller. Gradually getting worse and more deadly alongside the heightening of the storyline before climaxing in a devastating storm with fatal consequences. 

Although predictable, this book deserves the time that you’ll undoubtedly devote to it. It’s an exploration of culture, art, relationships and family, and ultimately shows the lengths that the characters will go to, to protect their loved ones. 

Their Read

Both of my children keep going back to the same book recently, You Choose by Pippa Goodhart and Nick Sharratt. Whilst it’s no work of literary genius, You Choose is an innovative book which allows your child to make their own story. With Nick Sharratt’s trademark illustrations, each page offers various options for your child to ‘choose’: If you could go anywhere, where would you go? Who would you have for family and friends? What kind of house would you live in? and many more.

Whilst my daughter (4) has her old favourites which she picks each time, she also notices new things almost every time she reads the book. My son (1) on the other hand is enjoying learning the different words for the different pictures he points to. This is a book which can be enjoyed across many age groups. 
Not only is this a good bedtime read, it feeds the imagination and lets your child lead the story. It's so simple, but so genius.

To Read
My recommended read this week is Us by David Nicholls. From the author of One Day, this novel is sad but funny, and oh so relatable. Scientist, Douglas, is happy in his marriage to artist, Connie. Suddenly, at 4am in the morning, she wakes him up to tell him that she feels their marriage is over and she’s leaving in the fall. 

Douglas has one summer to win her back, one summer and a trip around Europe, which he plans to make the holiday of all holidays. 

Whilst we join them on their journey around Europe, we also hear the story of their relationship from meeting until the present day. This book is heart-warming, true to life and is bound to make you laugh. 

If you liked One Day, you’ll love this. If you haven’t read One Day, you need to.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Happy 2016; Bronte; Otters; Flaps; Guests.

Happy 2016 to all of my readers! 

I’m starting this year with a fresh, new approach to my blog posts. As well as my usual reviews when the mood takes me, I’m going to be providing a weekly segment which covers My Read, Their Read (my children’s read of the week), and a To Read section, with a book recommendation. Every so often I may even throw in a His Read, for the male readers – not that the male readers can’t read what I’m reading too! 

I hope you enjoys this weeks’ segment. 

My Read 

Over the Christmas period, I have filled my time reading Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Surprisingly, I haven’t read it up until now, and I had my preconceptions. I thought that the story was mainly about Heathcliff and Cathy’s love affair, something which never really happened. I also thought the book ended with Cathy dying, when in actual fact she dies about a third of the way into it. I thought Heathcliff would be this romantic heroine who would save Cathy…he didn’t. He was actually quite bitter throughout the whole book and never really had the patience to get exactly what he wanted.

Anyhow, I’ve really enjoyed the book. Juxtaposing the Yorkshire Moors with a cup of tea and candles on a chilly winters evening has been very cosy! I have to admit though…for the last two weeks I’ve had Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights on a loop in my head: ‘Heathcliff, it’s me, Cathy, I’ve come home!’

I have about five or six chapters left…so if any of my current thoughts are about to be dramatically changed – don’t tell me just yet!

Favourite Character

My favourite character is young Catherine Linton, daughter of Edgar Linton and Catherine Earnshaw. I like her fearlessness; I like how she does what she wants to do, rather than what her father tells her to; I like how she does it all with a sweet smile whilst genuinely caring about not getting into trouble; finally, I like how she breaks the rules for the wellbeing of others, not just for the sake of it. In a book full of dark and dismal characters, plagued with revenge, she’s the light and the good, with a bit of mischief and playfulness thrown in. 

I also have a soft spot for Hareton Earnshaw. Whilst Heathcliff turns the innocent little boy into a brute with few brain cells, I have a longing for who his character could have been if left under Nelly’s care. I feel he could have been the romantic, intelligent heroine that I expected Heathcliff to be…only to be bitterly disappointed by his vengeful ways. 

Key Scene

My favourite scene (so far) is when Heathcliff returns as a strong, successful, rich man. I like the intrigue of what happened in the three years he was away to mark the change which we never really find out. I’m a fan of a transformation, and whilst his exterior changed for the better and his intelligence grew, he used the change to enable him to enact his revenge on Edgar Linton, which ultimately sent the love of his life mad and killed her. A lesson in using your intelligence for good not for evil, perhaps? 


This literary classic isn’t what I expected, but is definitely a book I will come back to again and again. The narrative is written cleverly, the old servant telling the story from her perspective, do we ever really hear the truth? Probably not, but it’s intriguing all the same. 

Their Read

I’m going on a journey with my four year old this year. She started school in September and has been learning how to read, so a lot of our reading time is spent with her reading to me now, although I do still like to read her a bedtime story. It’s a wonderful thing to see her comprehending each word and its’ meaning; to see her looking at the pictures to contextualise the words; to see her beginning to understand phonics and the numerous different sounds certain letters can make. 

This week she has been repeatedly enjoying a book we picked up at the local library, ‘The Wish Fish’. It’s a short level 2 read aloud story about Ozzie the Otter who catches a ‘Wish Fish’. It revolves around the ‘sh’ sound, but also includes harder words including ‘caught’, ‘friend’ and ‘mind’. Words that sound different to how they are spelled. 

My one year old is really getting into books now, which I love. Instead of bringing me one or two books at bedtime, I get a pile of books and have to prise him away from the bookshelf to start reading them to him! 

His book of the moment is ‘Peep Inside the Farm’ by Anna Milbourne. It has lots of flaps on each page for him to lift and find what’s underneath. It covers animals, plants, tractors, and the farm shop. It’s quite a learning experience for the little fella! His favourite page is the last page which show the farm shop, it opens up and you can see all the produce which is grown on the farm and then sold in the shop. He especially likes the man behind the counter who looks just like his Daddy. 

Other books in this range include ‘Peep Inside the Zoo’, ‘Peep Inside the Garden’ and ‘Peep Inside the Castle’. All of which are equally great to read to the little ones with plenty of flaps to keep little hands busy and interested. 

To Read

My recommended read of the week is ‘The Paying Guests’ by Sarah Waters. Set in 1920’s London, this book could almost be three separate books. There is plot twist after plot twist, each one as unexpected as the last, and it always keeps you guessing. 

It follows the life of Frances who, after losing her brothers in the war and her father from a heart attack not long after, has to find lodgers so that her and her mother can afford to stay in their large home. In comes Mr and Mrs Barber, a young couple who move into the first floor of Frances’ home. At first they are just a means to an end, an income to pay Frances and her mothers’ ever increasing debt. However, the daily routines of the house are shaken up in ways you would never expect, and all manner of devastating and shocking events occur. 

 This is a compelling story of mistakes and big decisions, with unsurmountable tension thrown in for effect. Frances isn’t always the most relatable character, and the ending isn’t the best ending I’ve ever read, but you can’t help but be drawn into the bones of the book. Definitely worth the awards it received in 2014. 

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Twinkl: An Educational Publisher - A Review

I’m going off tack a little this week and writing a review of the twinkl Resource Centre. The reason I have chosen to make a quick detour away from books, is simply because teaching my children is a huge part of my life, and it’s my blog, so I can!
Twinkl Educational Publisher create high-quality, easy to use learning materials. They aim their resources at several age ranges and stages, from Early Years to GCSE level and also encompassing social, emotional and mental health difficulties and parents’ resources. 
The website itself ( is intuitive and simple to navigate around, each age range and/or stage has its own section and is divided up into what sort of learning activity you’re looking for, including sensory, communication, language, mathematics, understanding the world and expressive art and design.
I have an 18 month old and a four year old so have been paying particular attention to the Early Years, specifically Birth to Twos, and Key Stage 1 areas. At this point, there are two observations I’d like to point out, my 18 month old had little interest in some of the more complex activities in the Birth to Two section, however my four year old enjoyed all of the activities I tried with her regardless of which stage they were from. This may be a difference in personalities or possibly that the Birth to Two section is possibly a little too expanded and maybe needs dividing down into the individual year groups. 
The activities we tried (with a little help from a friend!) were: 
  • Marshmallow Play Dough/Porridge Oat Play Dough
  • Ice Ornaments Science Experiment
  • Two versions of the Magnetic Christmas Bottle Experiment

Marshmallow Play Dough and Porridge Oat Play Dough
I am merging these two activities as they were very similar, however the Marshmallow Play Dough was created by myself and the Porridge Oat Play Dough was created by a friend.
Both pieces of play dough were easy to make, neither taking any longer than ten minutes. The main difference between the two was that the Marshmallow Dough was soft and pliable, and the Porridge Oat Dough was textured (although my friend did make a version without the porridge oats in as well to see which her son preferred, he preferred the textured dough.)
Both children (both aged 18 months) enjoyed playing with the dough. My son started by sticking his fingers in the marshmallow dough before using the cutters to make some Christmas shapes. He was quite happy that he was allowed to eat this dough (unlike regular play dough) although he wasn’t that impressed with the taste! After around five to ten minutes of play, he got distracted and found throwing the flour around much more fun, but the dough stayed soft for two days after creation, so both him and my daughter were able to continue playing as and when they felt like it for a while afterwards.
My friends’ son enjoyed playing with the dough, and as a childcare worker herself, commented on how easy it was to make the recipe. She swapped the coconut oil for baby oil and said it smelled lovely. Her little boy enjoyed poking and prodding the dough with various different cutters and objects, including star cutters, which also encouraged him to clearly say the word ‘star’ for the first time (twinkl resources are good for all sorts of things!).
All in all, the play dough experimentation has been fun, and both my friend and I agreed that we prefer the use of these homemade products to the shop bought play dough. We know the ingredients, we can make up as much as we need, and you can of course store it for as long as you want to (within reason!).
Ice Ornaments Science Experiment
I took the opportunity to do one of the more complex activities with my four year old and this seemed the perfect option with the cold snap we just had (the full two days of it!)
I did make some amendments to the method I took from twinkl, just to reflect the things I had in the house, but twinkl provided me with the basis for the experiment.
Using a silicone ice tray, my daughter and I filled them with water and placed string in the top before placing them in the garden in the evening. I’d looked ahead and was aware that it would be freezing that night. Low and behold, the next morning the ice had frozen and we had four little figurines to hang up. (It hadn’t frozen quite as hard as I wanted it to unfortunately, and the ornaments were fairly drippy at this point!)
Still, we hung the ornaments up and watched the changes in them as they melted. Although my daughter was slightly disgruntled that her pretty ornaments had just disappeared, we did have discussion about why they had melted and what had changed. It was nice to hear her thoughts on melting and temperature, and also a little imagination about how she was making the garden pretty for the fairies when they visited.
The only thing that would have improved this experiment would have been longer cold snap so we could repeat it a few more times!
Two versions of the Magnetic Christmas Bottle Experiment
There are two versions of this experiment as both my friend and I decided to go with it to see whether we got similar results.
I conducted the experiment with both of my children with a few amendments; my 18 month old was not interested in the slightest, he shook the bottle a little bit but wasn’t interested in looking in the bottle to see what he could find. My four year old really enjoyed it though. Rather than using magnets, we filled the bottle with pasta and hid small plastic animals inside, her job was to find the objects and tell me what I’d hidden in there.
It became a repetitive game where she would then manage the process for me to guess what was inside her bottle.
She really liked this and has asked if we can play it a few more times since. It will be a keeper in our house.
My friend also tried the experiment with her 18 month old, but this time did use the magnets (she’s much more organised than me!), she had a similar reaction from her 18 month old as I did from mine, he just wasn’t interested in finding out what was in the bottle.
This experiment is within the Birth to Two section of the website, and I think it would probably be more appropriate for a slightly older child.
I would definitely recommend the twinkl website to others. As well as the fun experiments I’ve mentioned, it also has areas with printable colouring pages which are useful for rainy day activities and also printable reward charts which are useful for guiding children along the right path. All of the activities are educational, but they are also good opportunities to spend some quality time with your children doing things that are fun, something which there can never be too much of.
The resources provide a good basis for using general objects that you find around the house. Most activities are adaptable, so even if you don’t have exactly what they have prescribed, you can make it work somehow.

There is also a section where you can create your own resources, so even if you can't find exactly what you're looking for, which is unlikely, you can have some fun creating your own. Ranging from display letters and banners, to colouring sheets and words pages, my daughter and I had fun with this tool, and with her input we created a few fun pieces for our playroom.
Take a look and share your thoughts on the website, signing up is free and easy, there's no reason not to!

Thursday, 19 November 2015

The Nutcracker - A Christmas Memory

What story do you think of when you think of Christmas? What story captures your imagination and transports you back to your childhood festivities? For my children, I think it would be The Gruffalo or The Night Before Christmas (a traditional Christmas Eve read in our house); but for me, it’s the story of a young girl who’s toys come to life on Christmas Eve and take her on an adventure to The Land of Sweets: The Nutcracker. 

One of my earliest memories of my school life was performing as a Sugar Plum Fairy in our school nativity play. From that moment, the story was engrained in my Christmas memories. I was lucky enough to see the Moscow Ballet perform the story alongside Tchaikovsky’s riveting score this weekend (14th November), and it was completely captivating. 

Written by E.T.A. Hoffman and premiered at the Marlinksy Theatre in 1892, The Nutcracker focuses on the protagonist, Clara, and her family on Christmas Eve night. The family are having a party around the Christmas tree with their extended family and friends; Clara and her brother Fritz are playing with toys that have been given to them by their Godfather, a local toymaker. Clara takes a particular liking to one toy in particular, a Nutcracker painted to look like a soldier. Unfortunately, whilst playing with the Nutcracker, Fritz breaks it. Clara is very upset and argues with her brother before they both go to bed. 

During the night, Clara returns to the Christmas tree to check on the Nutcracker. In the family room, magic occurs and the toys come to life. A battle takes place between the toy soldiers led by the Nutcracker, and an army of mice led by the Mouse King. It looks like the mice will win, but Clara throws her slipper at the Mouse King, which distracts him long enough for the Nutcracker to gain an advantage and ultimately win the battle. The mice disappear, wounded, having lost the battle. 

Upon winning the battle, the Nutcracker transforms into a handsome prince. He is grateful to Clara for saving him, so takes her to his homeland, the Land of Sweets, to thank her. They are greeted by a Sugar Plum Fairy who presents Clara with an array of performances from various delicacies, including chocolate, coffee, tea and candy canes. The Sugar Plum Fairy completes the performance with a finale. 

The Prince then bows to Clara, and she is transported back to the family room, waved on by all of the Sugar Plum Fairies and delicacies. 

The magic of this story mirrors the magic of Christmas, and the magic of a child’s imagination. What child doesn’t want to be transported to a Land of Sweets?! It’s a timeless classic and can be enjoyed by girls and boys alike. The ballet performance alone was absorbing and a compliment must be given to the accuracy and ease of each and every dancer. I hope you can bring the joy of this story into your household this Christmas too.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Book Review: More Than This by Patrick Ness

More Than This is the epitome of Young Adult fiction. A dystopian novel covering themes of sexuality, philosophy, technology and religion, all with a thrilling backdrop. This book was a pleasant surprise, and well worth putting the time aside to read. 

Revolving around the thoughts of main character, Seth, we meet him as he's committing suicide by plunging himself into the ocean. We don't know why, all we know is that he's dying. He wakes up in England (he lives in America), in a house he hasn't lived in for several years. He's lying semi-naked on the pavement outside his house. Everything surrounding him is overgrown, dilapidated and deserted. 

Drifting in and out of consciousness for a few days, he moves around the house and discovers it's exactly as it was when he lived here, with the furniture that his family took to America with him still in the house, along with the painful reminders of why the left England in the first place. 

The chapters jump between Seth exploring the strange place in which he's woken up, and him enduring flashbacks to his old life in America which led to his suicide. 

Ness writes an absorbing journey of teenage exploration, we find out why Seth felt the need to commit suicide, and how he reacts to being trapped in his own idea of hell. He soon discovers he's not as deserted as he initially thought, and he finds out what has happened to his family. 

We see Seth as he discovers his true self, discovers where he is, and discovers how he can fix the wrongs he's done. 

Stop reading now if you don't want to read the following spoilers...


We find out about a third of the way into the book that Seth is gay, and prior to his suicide, he was forced to 'come out' to his entire school in a horrible way. He lost the only person he felt that loved him for who he was and we see how he struggles to come to terms with firstly the loss, and secondly, his fault in the situation. 
The way Ness has thought about the extent to which this virtual world has taken over our life is genius and portrays a world which would not be surprising at some point in the future. 

The way Ness approaches a problem which is at the forefront of a lot of teenagers lives is clever and sensitive. He doesn't make a big deal out of Seth's sexuality, but focuses instead on how the people surrounding Seth handled his sexuality; particularly his mother and his friends and the effect that this had on Seth. 


Seth wakes up, not knowing where he is and we follow him as he comes up with many different ideas as to how he got there and where he is. He starts to wonder whether he's stuck inside his own mind, and he's controlling what happens and when just by thinking things; for example, he wonders if there are any animals where he is, and some foxes appear. As he starts to run towards his death, for the second time, he is saved moments before he dies by two new characters, who before long become his friends in the strange world he's living in. He even tells them of his thoughts on how he conjured them up to save his life, and how they're a figment of his imagination. 

This journey and realisation shows how self centred Seth is, but also the strength he holds within his mind, and how he is reluctant to rely on other people. By the end of the book, we never find out whether or not his theory was correct (hence why we need a sequel!), but it definitely added a depth to the story as we didn't know as much as Seth didn't know. 


Seth finds a 'coffin' in his bedroom, which he soon figures out is what he came out of. After meeting his friends, he finds out that the whole world was put into these coffins to live out an alternative life. A life that was ultimately better than the one they were living in previously. Initially, they went 'online' and 'offline' and lived between their lives, but before long the population moved permanently 'online', with only the janitors left behind to ensure they stayed there. They had pipes to feed and water them, pipes to remove their waste, and the technology became so advanced that women were able to give birth in the real world, and for it to be emulated in the online world. 

This exploration of an 'online' and 'offline' world is an exaggerated version of how we live today. Social media is such a huge part of our lives, and it gives us the opportunity to portray a perfect version of ourselves. Seth was disconnected from the online world, as were his friends, but as they discover when and why their families decided to go online, they find out more and more secrets abot their lives. Seth finds out that he was living in a world where his brother was 'brought back to life in a virtual world', after his death in the real world, a death which his parents never came to terms with. It's heartbreaking when Seth discovers his brother is actually dead, and not just left injured from an accident years before, which is what he'd always thought previously.


Seth regularly questions whether he is in hell and whether the janitor is death. The representation of such Christian qualities is evident of his upbringing in England, but the fact he continuously forces the idea away as though it cannot be true shows his religious thoughts too. He would much rather feel hope from his own mind in the thoughts that he is controlling what happens, than rely on hope from something which he cannot be sure of. 

Again, this represents the thoughts of our teenage world today. More young adults are questions religion and what their beliefs are, just as Seth does. And Ness explores this beautifully. 

Whether you're a young adult or not, this book makes you think. It explores themes which aren't touched on very often and it explores them in a sensitive but upfront way. I just hope there's a sequel so that I can have my numerous questions answered. Patrick Ness? Do you care to tell us??

Thursday, 8 October 2015

National Poetry Day...and some news!

I write today for two reasons. Firstly, to wish you all a happy National Poetry Day, I have acknowledged the day by thinking about the poems which most resonate with me, and I’ve chosen The Jabberwocky as my poem of choice. And secondly, to acknowledge our current transition to my favourite season, autumn. The season that brings me back to life.

The Jabberwocky

The Jabberwocky is from of my comfort read, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, more specifically, Through the Looking Glass. I love how the words, if I can even call Carroll’s wonderful jumbles of letters, words, just flow over each other. I love how in the book it’s written in mirror language, and it can’t just be read off the page. I love how it’s potentially one of the greatest nonsense poems of all time (sorry Mr Lear!).
I share Alice’s view of the poem, but I love the images it fills my head with, whether I can make sense of them or not:

“It seems very pretty," she said when she had finished it, "but it's rather hard to understand!" (You see she didn't like to confess, even to herself, that she couldn't make it out at all.) "Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas—only I don't exactly know what they are! However, somebody killed something: that's clear, at any rate

The Jabberwocky

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! and through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

"And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!"
He chortled in his joy.

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.


Autumn is the season which pulls me out of that summer slump. I’m not a fan of summer; I’m a big fan of feeling cosy, something which summer cruelly steals away from me.

There’s something magical about autumn though. Not just the cliché of the leaves changing colour and the days getting shorter, although I do enjoy the experience; but more than that. There’s a crispness in the air which clears my mind and helps me to focus, something which I struggle with during the summer months. Almost like hibernating in reverse!

This autumn brings the return of conker searching, kicking up the leaves and jumping in puddles.

More significantly, it brings the start of my studies towards a BA (Hons) in English Literature and Creative Writing. I have been studying for two weeks now, and to have my mind so absorbed into a particular subject is really exciting for me. I’ll be studying part-time over the next 6 years, which seems like such a huge amount of time, but I know that it’ll be well worth the investment.

I decided to study for a degree for three reasons:

1. I have always had a small regret that I never attended university back when I was 18. Looking back, I wasn’t in the right frame of mind then, and definitely would not have got the results I wanted. Now I am determined to get the results that I want, and definitely in the right place to do so.

2. I think it’s important to set a good example to my children. Learning never stops, no matter how old you get. I hope that I inspire them to continue learning long after they have left the classroom behind.

3. As part of my career, a degree will improve my skills, increase my knowledge and allow me to progress.

So here I am, giddily enjoying autumn and the exciting things it brings for me. I pull on my scarf and coat, give a little smile, and wander away…

“Autumn days when the grass is jewelled and the silk inside a chestnut shell…”

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

The Versions Of Us by Laura Barnett - Book Review

There has been a subdued silence on my blog recently, which I’m sorry for. I haven’t been ignoring you, I’ve been busy pursuing ideas outside of the blog, but still connected to my writing. Despite this, I feel the need to share a book with you that I have recently finished reading: The Versions Of Us by Laura Barnett.

Following the lives of Eva and Jim, the novel begins with one event, Eva riding her bicycle and almost colliding with a dog. What follows is an absorbing love story describing three possible outcomes of that event and how they change the course of the two characters’ lives.

Eva and Jim are nineteen when they meet, and both studying at Cambridge University. The three stories describe their lives from 1958 to the present day, recording their lives, their relationships, their families, their careers. The ‘constants’ are the characters of Eva and Jim, but each ‘version’ is completely different.

Each chapter is labelled as either Version One, Two or Three. Version One tells the story of Eva and Jim as a couple from when they met at the collision with the dog; in Version Two, Eva and Jim just miss eachother, lead separate lives, but cross paths at regular intervals, finally convening in old age. and Version Three, tells the story of Eva and Jim starting a relationship at University, before parting and meeting later in life and starting an affair together.

For me, each version was as enveloping as the previous. I felt the highs and the lows and I lived each version of their lives with them. The version that I connected with most, and the one that affected me the most, was Version Two, feeling the anticipation of their lives crossing and ultimately ending up together.

Surprisingly, this is Barnett’s first novel, but it reads like the work of a well-practiced veteran. I have rarely felt so connected to the characters in a novel, so much so that I felt disappointment at their failures, felt sadness at their loss, and victorious at their milestones. This was particularly applicable to Eva’s character who was written so well that I could relate to every aspect of her, but maybe that’s just because she was written similarly to myself.

I would, and have, recommended this book to every one of my fellow readers. Upon reading, you will feel included in the characters’ journey, wanting to take part in it up to the very last chapter, and beyond. I’m still feeling the book hangover now.