When I first started reading chick lit, it was all about carefree 20-somethings looking for love, booze-fuelled parties and the ultimate exotic holiday. All of which has very little at all to do with my life these days ! I was therefore delighted to discover that Fanny Blake's With a Friend Like You offers a tale of chick-lit for the slightly older forty or fifty-something woman.
Having a daughter just a few years younger myself, I could instantly empathise with Beth's disarray and absolute horror when she discovers that her 18-year-old daughter Ella is pregnant. To make things even more complicated, it turns out that the father is her best friend Megan's son. As if that didn't already make things awkward enough, she discovers that Megan knew before she did and chose to keep Ella's secret, as requested, rather than immediately run to Beth to let her know.
Despite initially empathising with Beth, my loyalties soon turned to Megan. I really appreciated and identified with her down-to-earth lifestyle - constant baking and a happy, if slightly chaotic, family home, alongside a career in teaching. As the two women struggle to come to terms with everything life throws at them, it seems unlikely that their friendship will survive intact ... unless the fact that they will become grandmothers for the first time at the same instant will take them forward into a new period of understanding.
Unlike much frothy chick lit where the heroine's biggest dilemma is which dress to wear and which eligible bachelor to pursue, it was enjoyable to see the characters going through the more realistic and mundane dramas relating to their work and personal lives. I did want to bang Megan and Beth's heads together at various points in the novel and tell them to get their act together and behave like grown-ups, and it did also strike me as slightly caricatural that all four men in the novel seem to be totally spineless and useless in a crisis, but the complex relationships between the female characters in the book (as friends, wives, mothers and daughters) kept me turning the pages, intrigued to see how things would ultimately play out.
star rating : 4/5
RRP : £7.99
Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.