Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Book Review: The Making of Us

By Becky Gulc

For the past year that I’ve been privileged enough to write reviews for Chick Lit Central, I’ve read some great books and been introduced to some fantastic new authors. However, I’ve had little time to keep up to date with books by my favourite authors. Lisa Jewell is one of my longstanding favourites and as the hardback of "The Making of Us" passed me by (I would gaze), I was delighted when I was approached to review this book for its paperback release. Lisa’s books have always been fantastic and memorable to me so I couldn’t wait to get started.

"The Making of Us" has three central characters, Lydia, Dean and Robyn. Each of them lead very different lives, each one of them feels something is missing. Lydia, raised single-handedly by her seemingly unloving father in a deprived area of Wales, she spends her youth drinking too much and confiding in the only living creature she trusts, her pet Alsation. When her father dies she moves away and vows never to visit her hometown again. Fast-forward to the present and Lydia is financially set for life, but emotionally there are plenty of gaps to be filled and questions unanswered.

Dean is an emotionally young man in his twenties; with fatherhood looming he hasn’t yet found his way in the world. When disaster strikes it’s time for Dean to grow up, and quickly. Can he do it? And if not how will he ever help to realise his own potential?

Robyn is a confident young woman in her first year of medical school. From a young age Robyn has considered herself to be somewhat special and destined for good things. But is this the real Robyn? Is this really her destination?

These three characters do not know one another but have one major thing in common...DNA. Each of the characters is aware they were conceived thanks to a sperm donation and all three characters are fine with this and in Robyn and Dean’s cases they have known about this for a long time. With a Donor Sibling Registry making contact feasible with one another and even with their "father," how will these relationships pan out? Lydia is the one perhaps struggling most with life, and on the brink of becoming a recluse, will her decision to reach out and find her siblings be worthwhile? Will the others take the plunge and make contact? Would contact help answer the soul searching questions they’ve kept hidden for years or will it make things worse?

Just like every other book by Lisa Jewell, this is a great read and won’t disappoint any fans, new or old. It was a book which was difficult to put down. I enjoyed the characterisation – each main character was damaged in some way or in denial and whilst they may not all be immediately endearing, they do become so. Although, yes, the key theme is the sperm donation, there are a lot of other things going on for the characters. It’s not limited to that subject alone, although most of the story centres on this. I grew to care about each of the characters immensely, especially Dean. The books gives a warm fuzzy feeling about family, but keeps a sense of realism with it (as far as it can in fiction), there are ups and downs along the way. I particular enjoyed the development of the Lydia character throughout the novel.
The structure of the novel worked well. As well as the three main characters there is Maggie’s viewpoint, with Maggie being a very likeable character and love interest/carer for Daniel – the sperm donor himself. This provided a nice side story and brought Daniel to life as a character.

I liked the fact that this story is unique in its subject matter. I enjoyed that it prioritised the sibling relationship rather than risk diluting the book by covering the father/child aspect to a greater degree – which must have been a temptation as it’s another interesting area. This book made me think more about sperm-donation generally, I guess I see it as faceless and I’ve never really thought about the sibling aspect before so I enjoyed delving into this fictitious world as it offered something different. I think the potential complexity of the issue was sensitively handled throughout the book. Lisa touches on aspects of Genetic Sexual Attraction (GSA) and I’m glad she did as I would have expected this to come up at some point in a novel on this subject, but Lisa was careful to acknowledge this without letting it become too much of a focus and potentially putting some readers off.

I would definitely recommend this book. And to anyone who likes a bit of eye candy and romance in their books do not worry, this book delivers on that count too with some of the additional characters.

Thanks to Random House UK for the book in exchange for an honest review.

(Top left, UK cover; Bottom right, US cover)

More by Lisa Jewell:

1 comment:

FABR Steph said...

I am definitely going to try a Lisa Jewell book. This sounds sounds like a book that I would enjoy and I have not yet tried the author. Thank you for your review.