Clover Quinn was a surprise. She used to imagine she was the good kind, now she’s not sure. She’d like to ask Dad about it, but growing up in the saddest chapter of someone else’s story is difficult. She tries not to skate on the thin ice of his memories.
Darren has done his best. He’s studied his daughter like a seismologist on the lookout for waves and surrounded her with everything she might want – everything he can think of, at least – to be happy.
What Clover wants is answers. This summer, she thinks she can find them in the second bedroom, which is full of her mother’s belongings. Volume isn’t important, what she is looking for is essence; the undiluted bits: a collection of things that will tell the full story of her mother, her father and who she is going to be.
But what you find depends on what you’re searching for.
This is my book of the year so far. No over-hyped plot lines, no dramatic twists, just brilliant characterisation and evocative writing. The author writes about the ordinary and everyday minutiae of love, life, friendships and relationships in such a way as to really get to the heart of what makes things tick.
The story centres around the relationship between 12 year old Clover and her dad Darren. Clover was a surprise (in every sense of the word) when she was born, but within 6 weeks her birth was overtaken by her mum’s death and Darren has been doing his best to cope ever since. As he works as a bus driver, he’s helped by family and friends including his Dad, his old school friends Colin and Kelly, Clover’s Uncle Jim (who has his own mental health issues) and their elderly neighbour Mrs Mackerel.
As the school summer holidays have just started Clover has time on her hands, outside of tending the allotment and knitting with Mrs M she needs a project. Having been taken by the Maritime Museum in Liverpool, she decides to mount her own exhibition dedicated to her Mum. Darren has always struggled with her death, keeps their old room full of her things and finds it difficult to talk about her. Clover wants answers though, and decides to clear the room, keep all the best things and sets about discovering who her mum was for herself.
I loved everything about this book, the story line, the characters and the writing which all blended together to produce a perfect balance of comedy and tragedy. I loved Darren and Clover, it was impossible not to be won over by their relationship and their individual insecurities, hopes and undoubted love for each other. But is wasn’t just the central characters that shone, all of the characters were well drawn and rounded. I had sympathy for hapless Uncle Jim, harboured hopes for Kelly, but most of all was taken by Mrs Mackerel. She offered some real comic moments, with her shouty comments and hilarious malapropisms. I’ve adopted her “going to Hell in a handbag” as my motto of doom and gloom.
It was a story that touched on topics that are everyday realities and in some form we will all have encountered from the lows of depression, death and grieving to the joys of friendship, love and hope. The author has a way of capturing feelings and emotions, and expressing them in a way that we can all feel and relate to and it really touched me. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
I received a free ecopy via NetGalley in return for an honest review