I’m pleased to be able to share my review for Growing Up for Beginners today. Thank you to Boldwood Books for my digital advanced review copy via NetGalley – my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift. Thank you also to Claire Calman for taking time to answer some questions – the question and answer session is included after my review.
It’s not easy being a grown-up, but at 47, Eleanor hoped she’d be better at it by now…
But when Eleanor waves her daughter off for a gap-year trip, she finds herself stuck as a satellite wife, spinning in faithful orbit around domineering husband Roger, with only a stash of hidden books and her brilliant but judgmental father Conrad for comfort.
Andrew isn’t mastering the art of growing up either. When he finds his belongings dumped on the drive, although he may not understand women very well, even he can see that this looks like some kind of hint… and so moves back in with his parents.
Backing onto Andrew’s parents lives artist Cecilia, always ready to recount tales of her innumerable ex-lovers, whilst her daughters feel she’s like a misbehaving teenager.
But now four lives are drawn together by long-buried secrets of the past, and it is time for them all to grow up, before it’s too late.
A desperate decision … A lost letter … A powerful secret hidden for thirty years…
This is the first book I’ve read by Claire Calman. I love the gorgeous cover, it is bright, cheerful and fits the story perfectly.
The story is told by various characters / POV’s and I found it took a few chapters to get into the flow of the story. Looking at the reviews on Goodreads, some readers quickly gave up – my advice is to stick with it if you can, it will be worth it.
As the title suggests, it is time for some of the characters to grow up. Eleanor, whose children have now flown the nest, has to deal with her husband Roger, who is one of the most obnoxious characters I’ve ever met in a book and her dad, Conrad. She meets Andrew (via Conrad), who suddenly finds himself living back with his parents (with a mum determined to feed him up) and needs to move forward with his life. My favourite character is Cecilia, who embarrasses her daughters with tales of her flamboyant past.
I enjoyed the book and hope you will be tempted to read it too. Topics covered include lost love, parenting issues, adultery, sibling relationships, creativity and a love of books.
Question and Answer session with Claire Calman:
1) Do you read the end of a fiction book first or do you know other people who do?
No, I don’t – but I do hate it when books don’t have proper endings. It’s not that the end has to be happy (though I’ve really gone off books that leave me feeling I might as well hide under the duvet as everything is awful), but I do want that feeling of rightness, that sense of ‘ah, yes – of course that’s the end.
I do know more than one person who habitually reads the end first and I think it’s more common than one may realise.
2) Was Roger inspired by someone or a combination of people?
There are specific things he does that stem from a range of people, eg always driving except when he wants to drink, and I’m afraid to say – the cutting of the books. The thing is that someone like Roger really has no idea that he’s a bully – I think he’d be genuinely baffled by the thought.
3) How has lockdown publication differed to normal publication for you?
Well – being superficial for a moment – no book launch! Missing out on some of the really enjoyable stuff when you have a novel published, eg doing festivals or talks in bookshops, signings, readings, more radio etc. I am doing Proms at St Jude’s LitFest – for a live Zoom event with my sister (writer Stephanie Calman) on Sunday 28th June.
4) Are you planning or writing a new book?
Yes. I had real problems focusing properly on writing at the start of lockdown because – like many people – I felt just really anxious about the whole thing, but I’m working better now. The next book is very different in tone. It’s set in Kent near where I used to live.
Thank you Claire for taking time out during publication week to answer these questions.
Purchase Link – https://amzn.to/2W6QeB4
Claire Calman is a writer and broadcaster known for her novels that combine wit and pathos, including the bestseller Love is a Four-Letter Word. She has appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour and Loose Ends.
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