How would we survive without friends for support? The Story of Our Lives follows four women; Sophie, Melissa, Emily and Amy over twenty years in short bursts an unusual structure that gives an insight into the momentous occasions that we all encounter during our lives.
The first time we meet the friends is on their weekend break in Southwold in August 1997 following the death of Princess Diana. Sophie is in a long-term relationship with someone she met at university, wondering perhaps if she settled down too soon. Melissa is searching for something, Emily is still slightly defensive about being a single mother to Jack and Amy revels in cooking up sumptuous dishes for them all. In other words although the four met at university their lives, even at this point are very different as are their hopes and dreams for the future, We know that there is a big secret to be revealed but what will it be? Will the friendship survive?
By the time we catch up with the four in Whitstable in 1998, the year Bill Clinton admitted to having relations with Monica Lewinsky, secrets being shared that will remain within the tight circle that will have repercussions down the line.
And so it goes on we meet the women, not every year, as they meet up in different destinations, always prefaced with a news story from the time, and we watch them change and grow as the obstacles of life are flung down in their paths. In the wrong hands this format could leave the reader feeling that there are gaps in the tale, but I’m pleased that Helen Warner has it nailed. Where necessary characters take a reflective look back over the past and the dialogue provides us with the women’s thoughts and views on any particular issue.
Inevitably, as in real-life, the friendship will be tested at times providing the reader with moments of tension as the women struggle to come to terms with the consequences. Although the book is a definite celebration of friendship there is some depth and some thorny issues tackled within the storyline avoiding the mushy and false view that life can be solved by the shoulder of a good friend. At different points the women have to take responsibilities and face the consequence of their decisions, and we all know that isn’t easy no matter who has your back!
I really enjoyed the preface to each section with the news story, although it made me feel old as I kept saying ‘surely that wasn’t that long ago!’ and the author marks the progress of technology in a subtle way so that as we move time periods the timeline is firmly fixed.
An emotional read that will see each of the women face difficulties as well as moments of joy and their friends reaction to each of these significant moments.
A delightful and uplifting read which is likely to have its readers reflecting on their own friendships.
I was grateful to receive a copy of The Story of Our Lives from Lovereading UK and this unbiased view is my thanks to them and the publisher HQ for allowing me to read about Sophie, Melissa, Emily and Amy’s stories ahead of publication on 8 February 2018.