Title: The Lost and Found Life of Rosy Bennett
Author: Jan Birley
Series: – –
Genre: Woman’s Fiction/Chick Lit
Rosy loved her London life – her job in a designer shop, her gorgeous West London family house and of course her gorgeous family (although young sons are enough to test anyone at times). All that disappears when, one unremarkable morning, after one unremarkable school run, her husband collapses on a crowded tube carriage and dies.
As she struggles her way through the grief, she discovers her husband’s secret life: secrets accounts, secret deals that their solicitor knew nothing of, secret debts and what looks like a secret “very close friend” at least.
Totally unprepared and suddenly in debt, Rosy is forced to leave London to start a new life with her incredibly reluctant boys in the countryside. Can angsty urban teenagers cope with farm life, let alone enjoy it? More to the point, can their mother? It’s certainly not going to be easy but when you are at rock bottom the only way is up.
Source: Review copy from the author
Well, wow. What Rosy goes through in this book… one moment her life is perfect, then her husband dies, she finds she’s deeply in debt, there is no money to pay for it and her youngest son clearly hates her. And that’s just in the first few chapters. To say that Rosy goes through the mill during this book is a massive understatement. And I really enjoyed the journey.
Rosy is a pretty incredible character, for all that she frequently seems unable to cope. The situation Simon leaves her in is awful, not just because of the dying and debt, but the mystery as to why he bought an alpaca farm in the first place. His feckless selfishness is breathtaking at times, yet Rosy does her best not to blame her husband for any of it, mostly to protect her sons’ memories of their father. She’s not always the strongest of characters, and definitely isn’t stern or often fully in control, and there are a few times I just wished she would stop messing about and make a decision (Harry), but somehow she also achieves so much. She loves her boys and tries so hard to do her best against some pretty tough odds, and I loved how she turned everything around.
As for those boys – Archie was amazing, while James was a complete horror. I don’t think Rosy always handled either boy brilliantly – letting Archie take too much onto himself and neglecting him a fair bit, while James got away with far too much and constantly seemed to be reward for his behaviour – but it fit in with her personality and I can’t imagine how I’d handle a grief-stricken eleven-year-old as headstrong as James. As for Megan, poor Megan – the selfishness of her mother in not preparing anyone for that was just staggering and borderline cruel.
Then there are the alpacas, the wonderful alpacas. I loved them and the way they wormed their way into the family’s hearts, providing them all with purpose and a new focus for their troubles.
Okay, if I’m honest, I do think that Rosy and her boys adjusted a bit quick to country life (there didn’t seem to be any difference between town and country, except that they were further away from their friends – only Emma complains about the mud), and I didn’t really get any sense of Dorset from the story – it could have been set anywhere with a village and some fields – while the idea of everyone encouraging Rosy to move on romantically less than six months after Simon’s death seemed a bit quick, but overall I liked this. The characters are strong, the story is well told and there are alpacas! Although if swearing offends you, do be warned that there’s a fair bit in this tale. It doesn’t bother me (I can remember being a foul-mouthed little urchin at Jamie’s age, though never when I was at home), however, it might come as a bit of a shock to those it does.
So, if you’re looking for an absorbing, enjoyable read that turns one family’s life upside down and gives it a thorough shake before settling down again, you will probably enjoy this. It has emotion and arguments, alpacas, troubled children, a touch of romance and characters you can really feel for, all wrapped up in a town to country, life goes on tale. In other words, Jan Birley has done a great job with her debut and I look forward to seeing what she writes next.
The Lost and Found Life of Rosy Bennett is Out Now!
Visit Jan Birley for more details.