The first thing to point out is that Patricia Scanlan's A Time For Friends is a real whopper of a novel, weighing in at over 600 pages, so it's not a book for the faint-hearted or those who are short of time. If you're looking for a book to see you through a fortnight of carefree lazing by the poolside though, it's just what the doctor ordered.
The novel starts with three briefly covered traumatic incidents for young children. As the book progresses, the reader will discover who the children turned into and the far-reaching consequences that these events have had, both in the shaping of their personalities and their whole futures.
The book is divided into three parts and three decades, "1990 : On The Way Up", "Millenium Year 2000 : BOOM !" and "2008 : Bust". It follows the lives of childhood friends Colette and Hilary, who stay in touch despite the very different paths their lives have followed. Dependable and self-sacrificing all-round good egg Hilary has stayed close to her Irish roots and is content with her lot in Dublin, with her husband Niall and two daughters. She has managed to take the helm of her father's lighting business and turn it into a successful home designing partnership with a newly-found friend Jonathan, but she's far from being a high-flier. Colette, on the other hand, has managed to follow her parents' road to riches, marrying a ruthless financier and starting out a new life, rising through the social ranks in New York. She has the prestigious jetsetting lifestyle, the Platinum mastercard and the endless champagne-and-canapé-fuelled soirées, but is she really the happier of the two?
As well as following the personal stories of the two women, the book also incorporates real life historical events into the narrative, such as the Anglo Irish Bank hidden loans controversy, the Madoff investment scandal and the sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic church, showing the effects that they had on the characters in the novel. The main focus of the novel though is following the relationships with friends and family, and all the assorted secrets, lies and betrayal that inevitably goes with them.
The characters are quite believable, even if they seem very stereotypical - Hilary is a bit too good to be true and Colette doesn't seem to have any redeeming features at all. The children and husbands seem to be equally black or white, which makes them less realistic.
It's an enjoyable read, with no major drama or unexpected twists, perfect to plod through over the summer as you sip your cocktails on the sunlounger !
star rating : 4/5
RRP : £12.99
Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book in order to share my honest opinion.