Nell Stevens finds herself back in London after a failed relationship and a failed business, being forty-something she thinks this equates to a failed life as well. Trying to find her feet again she runs into a mountain of obstacles but Nell Stevens is never one to back down.
Thank you to Readers First, Pan Macmillan and Alexandra Potter for sending me this review copy! I'll spoil this review for you from the top, this was my first five star read of 2021 and it deserves every single star!
Alexandra Potter to start off is a wonderful human, she personally contacted me to let me know her publication date was pushed back and comments I made about the book whilst she responded to and was just so lovely!
Immediately, I fell in love with Nell. She was real and natural as a character, her hopelessness felt genuine and within the first few chapters we are already rooting for her to have a happy ending. What I also loved about the characterisation of Nell is that her emotions and experiences within the book just came to life on the page. Her life was falling apart, and who hasn't been there? Who hasn't felt lost and wanted some guidance? Potter picks up on universal feelings we've all felt and because of this I connected so easily with Nell and wanted to keep reading just to see if she ended up happy (spoiler; she did).
It wasn't just Nell that became a memorable part of this novel, Potter seems to have a brilliant knack for creating perfect characters for the experience or connection Nell required from them. Cricket in particular was perfect, she created a safe space for Nell that became a safe space for us as well, if Cricket was in the scene we knew it'd be a comfortable one. Even enemies of Nell were well-rounded when they just antagonised her and we disliked them. Annabel was a perfect image of enemy-turned-friend but because she was so well written I actually longed for her redemption, for her to become a positive aspect of the novel.
Emotions ran high during this novel. I laughed out loud, shed a tear and got angry on behalf of Nell. Potter touches on sensitive topics with careful consideration of the reader but without sugar-coating the very real effects they have on people. 'The Fear' was one of the parts I briefly spoke to Alexandra Potter about, she wanted to describe depression as "truthfully and honestly" as she could and she succeeded in showing readers this wasn't something rarely seen and it's something a lot of us deal with. I felt seen in this novel, more so than in others that touch on depression, and I couldn't have loved Nell's journey through her "forty-something-th" year more because of how honest this was.
I cannot thank Alexandra Potter, Pan Macmillan and Readers First enough for sending me what will surely be one of my favourite reads of the year!