Summary: Stella runs away from her life in London to work at a Scottish hotel. Jake survives a crowd crush in Hong Kong, finds himself in the wrong life in England, and goes in search of his father in Scotland. Stella’s sister Nina has never coped well without Stella, and Stella’s Italian-Scottish family isn’t thrilled about her new life choices either…
I loved this. The bond between the sisters was so strong and real, and O’Farrell seems to have the knack of coming up with seemingly insignificant anecdotes which touch on the core of what she’s trying to convey – in this case, the protectiveness of a bigger (though younger) sister, teenage rebellion, different attitudes to life and love and yet that unswerving loyalty to one another.
Like in The Hand That First Held Mine, we have Europeans living in Britain, learning to be bicultural, touches of another language thrown in haphazardly – which appeals to me so much because it’s exactly what I have lived. According to Wikipedia, a stint working in Hong Kong (which she draws on in this novel) is O’Farrell’s only “foreign” experience, so I wonder where she got this bilingual slant from. Anyway, I think it’s fabulous.
Also as in THTFHM, there was a sort of mystery to be solved, or an undisclosed event which was revealed towards the end and had a transformative effect on the characters’ lives, but finding it out wasn’t really the aim of the book, which was quite pleasant. The deed in question was pretty clearly signposted but I didn’t think that detracted from it.
The reason this doesn’t get 10/10 is because the ending was a bit disappointing and twee – too neatly wrapped up. But I guess that’s a matter of personal taste.