In a Cottage in the Woods by Cass Green | Review

I really liked how In a Cottage in the Woods opened. Cass Green sets up the story in just a couple of pages.

She introduces a troubled heroine, Neve Carey and a suicidal woman called Isabelle.  Neve meets Isabelle on a bridge and they have a brief conversation just before Isabelle jumps. Although brief, we learn a lot about Neve from this conversation. For one thing, she’s kind enough to stop and help a stranger. She’s also very hard on herself. She questions her own motivations, and thinks that she falls short.  She’s someone who does the right thing when it matters, but she’s also troubled and unhappy. Within just a couple of pages, you get a really strong sense of who she is and why she does what she does.

Believable character

Neve’s a very believable character. There’s a lot going wrong in her life — her relationship has broken up and she’s temporarily staying in sister’s house because she can’t afford to stay anywhere else. Her work is boring and she’s underpaid. Her financial insecurity and emotional unhappiness impact her relationships, stirring up conflict that isolates her from family and friends. This isolation is what makes her the perfect heroine for Cass Green.

Cottage in the Woods

Neve inherits Isabelle’s cottage in the woods when she has hit rock bottom — no home, no relationship, no money, no job. So she has no choice but to move in. The cottage is isolated and creepy, making it an excellent setting for Neve to face her demons. And not all of them are internal. Someone doesn’t want Neve in the cottage.  The question is who? And why?

In a Cottage in the Woods is an entertaining page turner and a fast read. I enjoyed it. If you like the sound of it, you might also like The Woman Next Door.

Disclosure: HarperCollins provided a review copy.

The Break by Marian Keyes 

Marian Keyes takes a wry look at midlife crises in The Break.

The Break by Marian Keyes is the story of how a husband’s midlife crises sparks personal growth in his wife.

Following the death of his father, Hugh decides he wants to find himself. He plans a 6 month break away from home and packs a backpack destined for South East Asia.

News of the proposed ‘break’ comes as shock to his wife, Amy. A PR executive, she has the skills to ‘manage’ perceptions of the break so she steals a march and announces it on social media.  But it undermines her confidence even though she decides not stand in Hugh’s way.

Hugh says he’ll come home once the six months are up but Amy fears that he might not. And, even if he does return, who’s to say that things won’t change in the meantime, So, Amy’s anxious. And having to put on a brave face isn’t as easy as she makes it look.

Marian Keyes meanders a bit too much for my liking and it takes many pages before Hugh, the husband eventually leaves.  Once he’s gone, the pace picks up as Amy learns to cope with her new situation.

This is a chatty novel with lots of online shopping and gossip — not unlike a night out with the girls!

Disclosure: I read an advance review copy via Netgalley.

City of Friends by Joanna Trollope

Work and female friendship are central themes in Joanna Trollope’s latest novel, City of Friends. This is the story of four women who met as economics students and whose friendship has endured into their forties. Each has a successful career but struggles to balance her personal and domestic responsibilities with work.

For Stacey, a senior partner in an equity firm, the drama begins when she seeks flexible working. She wants to work from home so that she can keep an eye on her mother who has dementia. But instead of acceding to her request, the company makes Stacey redundant. She is stunned. It’s the first time in her life that she has been unemployed and she quickly begins to lose herself.

For university professor Beth, the drama is the breakdown of her relationship with a younger woman.

Management consultant Melissa’s drama begins when her son Tom decides to build a relationship with his father’s family.

For investment banker Gaby, work always comes first. This creates tension with her husband Quin and also impacts her relationship with her children, Taylor, Claudia and Liam.

City of Friends — Minor Characters

Trollope cleverly interweaves these domestic dramas using minor characters to create connections and tensions in the individual friendships between the four main characters.

Of the four, Gaby is the one who most often speaks to the virtues of work. For example, in a letter to her eldest daughter Taylor, she advises: “Try to focus on work rather than falling in love. That may seem a classic mother-not-understanding thing to say, but it’s work that will keep you going through love and children and marriage, it’s work that will actually provide more fun than almost anything else that happens to you.”

Each of the four main characters is defined by work as much if not more than by their personal relationships. And for each, to some extent it is, as Gaby says, work that keeps them going. But friendship also keeps them going and never more so than when work knocks them down.