My Review of "183 Times A Year" by Eva Jordan
The image of this book cover caught my eye when I was rather speedily scrolling through my Twitter feed while making breakfast (I know, it was Mother's Day, I should have been in bed but I assure you, this was the better option!!). I love how sometimes your next favourite read presents itself in the most random way and suddenly you discover a new author and a whole new world of characters for you to become lost amongst. In just one split second, I discovered a book which was hugely entertaining and gave me a lovely, relaxing, light read that was like settling down in front of your favourite sitcom with a packet of chocolate hob nobs!
I mean, how can you not resist a book which begins with the opening paragraph: "I don't like my daughters' very much. Don't get me wrong - I love them, and would lay down my life for them should the need ever arise - but right now my teenage daughters' are a pain in the proverbial backside."
Meet Lizzie. A librarian and mother to three teenagers - one of which is her step daughter - partner to Simon, who can't be bothered to propose and make it official, and ex wife to Scott who is a complete waste of space and happily ignores any responsibility for his children now he's remarried and has new babies of his own. Lizzie is a self confessed bibliomaniac and irritates her children enormously by illustrating any comment or piece of advice with a literary quote. She has a witty and often sarcastic internal voice which sometimes escapes into a real conversation. She struggles to juggle all the pressing demands of a modern day family - "I'm sure I meet myself coming on most days"- and is completely baffled by her teenage daughters who refer to her as "psychotic" what ever she tries to do and however she tries to resolve tension. "Of course it's your fault," she thinks during a row with Cassie, "Why are you surprised....her entire existence is your fault and she'll blame you forever more."
Meet Cassie. Perpetually annoyed by her mother whose sole purpose is to destroy any hope of her having a social life, boyfriend or getting any revision for her GCSEs done. A habitual door slammer with an irritating habit of over using the word "sick" in every utterance and continuous exclamation of "Oh my actual god!" Cassie is self centred, skittish and hot headed. Her inability to recall the right word is very amusing- I liked her reference to Shakespeare and his use of Islamic pentameter, or was it imbecilic pentameter?! Cassie is suitably irrational and unpredictable as she tries to navigate her way through adolescence and all its heart searing moments of first love, bullying, homework and an all consuming effort to fit in and be liked.
Together their voices, which alternate rapidly in short extracts, create a laugh out loud, engaging and entertaining read about mothers and daughters. Despite being nagged, harangued, shouted at and taken for granted, Lizzie remains calm and resilient. During one of Cassie's rants, Lizzie thinks how she sounds like a "tortured animal" and "taxidermy sprang to mind. I imagined her here but stuffed and quiet. She would stand with her arms out -welcoming, and she would smile - permanently." There's an hilarious episode where Lizzie tries to wear sexy knickers in a bid to regain a sense of self and is in such discomfort it was like watching a "Miranda" or "Bridget Jones" style comedy moment! But she is an intelligent, caring, nurturing person with a dry witty sense of humour and this saves the book from becoming either too depressing or too saccharine. Cassie too, although her teenage vocabulary is suitably repetitive, irritating and cliched, is actually quite endearing. We can all relate to the pain of "coming of age" and the absolute "unfairness" of life at that age. Her naivety and lack of self esteem make you want to either give her a good shake or jump into the pages and lamp the other characters for their unkindness. I liked the description of her "hedonistic melancholy" during the summer holidays which reminded me that actually, her plight was still within the confines of a very safe, secure and loving home which prevent things becoming too bleak. The quick and fluent switching between Lizzie and Cassie's voices also keeps the book moving at a good pace, full of vitality and life. The mood is light and entertaining. Jordan has struck a perfect balance between amusing her readers but not belittling or patronising mothers or their daughters. The writing is authentic and sensitive.
I wasn't quite prepared for the last quarter of the novel when things take a very dramatic turn of events but this gives the characters a chance to complete their emotional journeys; to mature, gain some understanding and self realisation and wrap the story up in a very satisfying resolution. Be warned though - it's a bit of an emotional roller coaster on the way there, with some much more touching, emotional and tear jerking moments to survive first!
The book is about relationships, friendships, growth, deception and grief. The characters are flawed but the novel is about being able to forgive yourself for being flawed; to accept it and move on. It is about the fragility and strength of life and that "wanting deprives you of contentment and happiness.....don't miss what you actually have.." And I'm going to finish my review with the words of Grandad - "It's not a life, it's an adventure." I hope you enjoy joining Lizzie and Cassie on theirs!
I got a copy of this book for 99p on Kindle on 6th March 2016 - an absolute bargain!
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