Monday, 15 June 2009

Helen Walsh: Once upon a time in England

On the coldest night of 1975, Robbie Fitzgerald is running for his life - and that of his young family. In his heart, Robbie knows the odds are stacked against them. In this unbending Northern town, he has married the beautiful brown nurse who once stitched up his wounds. Susheela is his Tamil Princess, but in the real world, the Fitzgeralds have to face up to prejudice, poverty and sheer naked hatred from their neighbours. Now Robbie has seen a way out, and he's sprinting to his date with destiny... Over thirteen years of struggle, aspiration, achievement, misunderstandings, near-misses and shattered dreams, Helen Walsh plunges us into the lives and loves of the young, doomed Fitzgerald family.

I have finished with this book and I must say the second half of the book was brilliant. However, if I hadn't had joined the canongatebooks readalong, I wouldn't have got to the end!
I hated Robbie and found some of the other characters a bit over the top at times. The fact that suddenly all of them (Ellie, Vincent and Sheila) seem to be having some kind of flirtation with their own sex, was way too much and made the story unbelievable in places. As for Vincent's suicide, I actually expected it quite early on in the book and was therefore not so taken aback towards the end. I did, however, like Robbie's rendering of "Starry, starry night" at the funeral.
What made me pick up this book (or rather apply for a free copy) was that I wanted to read the book for its storyline. The mixed-cultural marriage and the fact that parents want the best for their children really struck a chord with me. I just felt it a shame that Robbie was so tremendously unlikable....

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