Comment: This was my choice for this month's installment of the TBR Challenge. March would be a month dedicated to a Comfort Read. As Wendy has said, a comfort read can be open to interpretation and in this specific case, I looked at it as in a book that I knew would be entertaining and I'd want to spend time with, feeling comfortable. By opinions and and other comments I knew this would be something along my tastes so I felt pretty content with picking this one and, joyfully, I was proved right and comforted.
In this book we meet a British family which includes a single working mother, a math's genius child, a eyeliner user teenager and a not always good smelling dog. This family isn't at its best but when the opportunity to gain some money appears in the form of an Maths' Olympiad in Scotland, the family goes there with the help of mr Ed Nicholls, one of the patrons the single mom Jess works for. But the journey isn't easy and all characters must learn something from it, even if the lesson isn't easy to accept. In a both humorous but deep style, we learn that first impressions aren't always the most trustful and everyone can hide a better person inside.
I was very expectant of reading this book, especially because I've read other books by the author and liked the style (if not always the content) and I saw good opinions and people mentioning things I know I'd like.
This book is told from everyone's POV, one chapter at a time, always alternating between Ed, Jess, teenager Nicky and little Tanzie. It's not always easy to keep the flow using this writing tactic but in this case, it worked out pretty well.
What truly made me eager to get to this book was Jess. She is a single mom and she works two jobs to support her family. Her situation with her husband, trying to deal with a depression at his mother's is part of the plot, so I won't say much about it, but Jess herself was fascinating. She is the epitome of so many women, women who work, who have bills to pay, who feel the weight of their actions on their shoulders, who can't always meet ends meet, who love and defend their children but don't always have the power to change things. Reading about this type of character could be depressing and sad but the author has an optimistic Jess, someone who tries to see the best of everyone. And I like when a working woman, even facing adversity, can find someone to trust in, like Ed and can be her own person even when things don't go as easy as she wanted but at the end, all goes well, because hope always moves us.
I really liked Jess, not because she is perfect - she isn't! - but because she tries her best.
The plot isn't too complicated but in every page we learn something new, we see something more in each character's development and the situations that seemed easy to deal with have more layers we didn't anticipate, even if we did wonder about them at times.
It was great to see how each character was changed by getting to know the others better, especially Jess and her kids knowing Ed and vice versa. Every day's feelings we don't always think about were portrayed here quite well, especially when it came to deal with family and expectations others have of us.
There's a subtle romance between Jess and Ed which I liked to see develop but their lusting after one another isn't the focus and it never feels cheap. They bond somehow and their feelings just happen. The evolution of their romance is in sync with the plot development and this now only makes everything seem well structured but also reveals how the author has thought about how to insert every detail at the right moment. It just seemed flawless for me.
The character's themselves are amazing. None is perfect, all have a bit of introspectiveness in them, but who hasn't at our weakest moments?
Jess I liked a lot, Ed was a good surprise because he faced a bad situation and he acted very realistically. Nicky is the bullied teenager just because he is different but he is a wonderful person and Tanzie is a genius but still a little girl. All these characters interactions with one another and other people show us always a little bit more about them and how they change to become better somehow. I really liked the sense of hope we get from the end of the book.
After finishing this book, I realized I had gone through the major emotions, from laughing to crying, from feeling sad to very happy and this book feels very good. I think that, in terms of enjoying the read and getting some comfort, this was quite the success for me. Sometimes, things align themselves in a way with books and they just make sense and feel right for us. I really liked this one a lot and I think this is now my favorite by the author. I'm curious to see if the ones I haven't read yet (but that I have in my TBR) will be as amazing.
This one I really recommend!