"The Great Escape" is the sixth novel by author and journalist Fiona Gibson. With a delightfully colourful and fun looking cover, the book was immediately enticing and I looked forward to getting started on my first Fiona Gibson novel. This was one of the books I took on my recent holiday and my expectations were heightened when my Mum (who read the book before me) was giggling away on her sunbed. If it’s good enough for my Mum...
"The Great Escape" is the story of three friends, Hannah, Sadie and Lou. These three 30-something women were inseparable during their university days in Glasgow, but over a decade later their busy lives mean they rarely ever get chance to meet up, nevertheless the bond between them all remains strong. With each one of the ladies desperate to escape their adult lives with all the responsibilities and trials and tribulations this brings, they soon agree on a last minute hen do, and where better to go than Glasgow, to revisit a place which reminds each one of them of a simpler more straightforward existence. Well, it’s just what the doctor ordered.
Hannah is the ‘hen’ as she’s about to marry her dream man, Ryan; the problem is his two children who seem to despise her. Can she really marry a man when she feels like an unwanted guest in her own home? Then there’s Sadie, happily married, successful, and recently relocated to the countryside following the birth of twins. But, is she starting to forget who she really is? Finally there’s Lou, a quirky lovely character who abandoned her creative dreams for a 9-5 job to pay the bills, whilst her long-term bum of a boyfriend sponges off her and cheats on her behind her back. Each of the characters desperately needs this weekend away, but can they recapture their youth? What spanner will their sexy former neighbour, Johnny, who is still in Glasgow, throw into the works? Will any of them be able or wishing to go back to their same old lives in England after the weekend is over?
There are multiple narratives in this book. Not just the three women, but their partners too, and a couple of additional characters. This took a little getting used to until each couple’s story became familiar but I definitely enjoyed this overall, tapping into the male point of view was very interesting for the three stories, particularly in terms of Spike (Lou’s boyfriend), who as the reader you can’t help but despise, but you wonder if he can somehow redeem himself for his actions even if Lou deserves better. Nevertheless, I didn’t always enjoy the change in viewpoint, for me sometimes it happened too frequently. Although I was happy with the ending of the novel, I was disappointed it wasn’t delivered from the viewpoint of one of the central characters, but instead was from the viewpoint of a character that played a very small part in the book overall. For me this didn’t quite fit or add anything, even though the events were ones I was happy with. But maybe I’m just being fussy!
Overall I thought this was a great escapist read (no pun on the title intended!) and I warmed to each of the central characters. Like my Mum, I found myself laughing out loud many times, particularly in relation to how Sadie’s husband Barney copes in caring for the twins when she’s away. When the characters are on the train up to Glasgow, they were having so much fun I just wanted to be on it with them, and when they arrive, it gets even better. This won’t mean much to many people, but I was pleased to see Lou living in York which is where I live, big up Yorkshire!
I thought the book covered a lot of ground in terms of the range of difficulties that people can face in relationships; everyone will be able to relate to something in here, even if like me you don’t have children or step-children. All in all, it’s a great story about friendship and change and it was refreshing to see the male characters' viewpoints shown throughout, giving a holistic view of a situation. I was impressed with Fiona’s ability to balance real life and heartfelt issues with light hearted fun comedy, to me that makes a great read. I’d recommend that you escape with this book this summer!
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