Friday, June 15, 2012

Book Review: What I Did On My Holidays

By Becky Gulc

With such a wonderful summery cover and an enticing blurb. this book was a shoo-in for joining me on my recent holiday to Greece. At just over 300 pages, I got through "What I Did On My Holidays," by Chrissie Manby, within less than a day. A couple of weeks on thinking back to this book, it still makes me smile.

Sophie Sturgeon could not be more excited. She’s one day away from jetting off for a fortnight’s break to Majorca with her gorgeous boyfriend (and colleague) of 18 months, Callum. She’s spent months planning every detail of the trip, and with her (admittedly annoying) colleague Hannah telling her each day where she should go, and how much of a romantic a setting it is (so much so that she became engaged there) Sophie has high expectations for this holiday, and high expectations of colleagues to meet, especially as Sophie will be turning the big 3-0 during the holiday.

The night before the holiday Sophie has her bags packed, she’s prepared a special meal, including manchego cheese, so that they can get in the holiday spirit even earlier – the only problem is Callum is late, very late. Sophie’s world is turned upside down when a text eventually arrives from Callum, stating quite matter of factly that he’s not going to Majorca with her, oh and he’s splitting up with her, right now. When Callum suggests Sophie still head to Majorca without him, she’s dumbfounded. She doesn’t. Instead, she sits in her flat unable to face the world. When Callum shows up to work the next day Sophie is inundated with texts and emails from her nosey colleagues desperate to know what’s going on. When they begin to praise Sophie for still going on holiday, especially as Callum appears to be down in the dumps, she doesn’t correct them.

When Sophie’s eccentric sister Clare turns up at the flat to water her plants, just as she’d instructed, Sophie hides, and hides – up until the point she is nose to nose under the bed with a dead rodent and watching her sister put her dirty feet into her favourite and new Jimmy Choo’s. Screaming from beneath the bed she nearly gives Clare a heart attack, and the book then kicks in with a real adventure for these two sisters. Seemingly happily engaged Clare insists on Sophie keeping up the pretence and faking the holiday with a view to being the ‘independent’ woman Callum always wanted instead of the ‘clingy’ woman he claimed her to be, and she’s going to join her. Question is, with Sophie’s colleagues and Mum being avid tweeters and with requests for photo evidence how will the pair convince everyone they’re on a heartbreak recovering holiday in the sunny Balearics rather than the not so sunny South London? It’s a good job Sophie has a very creative sister!

I thought this was the perfect summer escapist read. It is quite a simple premise for a book – but it offers you more than you think it will. When the sisters begin their ‘holiday’ in the flat, after a while I was worried I’d feel claustrophobic just by reading about them, they don’t allow themselves to leave the flat in case they’re seen! But thankfully I didn’t. There are plenty of comical moments in the book:

‘she started snoring so noisily I could only be thankful that her head wasn’t right next to mine. I would have perforated an eardrum. I gave her a shove, to try and persuade her to roll onto her side. She didn’t roll over. She stayed fast asleep and gave a loud and indignant snort that suggested she was possessed by the ghost of a wild boar.’

When the sisters are trying to create genuine looking photos of Majorca and updating their friends/family with realistic things they could be doing on their holiday I was smiling constantly.

The question is whether either of the sisters will finish their holiday in better circumstances than they started it? Will Sophie get her man back? Will Clare’s love for her fiancĂ© be re-ignited or will she call the whole thing off? One thing’s for sure, during this holiday these sisters will reconnect with one another and help each other get through difficult times with plenty of laughs along the way.

I thought quite a simple premise for a book was extremely well executed. My concerns that there wouldn’t be enough substance to this story, especially with it spanning just a two-week period, were unfounded. I enjoyed the focus on two sisters as central characters and thought they complemented each other well. I genuinely enjoyed spending time with these sisters. It was funny and contemporary with the regular references to social networking (we can’t even escape this on holiday now can we, really?) and other great supporting characters were woven into the story well and at the right points, even if there were some convenient moments.

If you’re looking for a light summer read that you don’t mind getting through quickly this is one for you.

More by Chrissie Manby:


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Anonymous said...

Really enjoyed this review! I'm a bit of a chiclit fan myself, and I'm definitely going to add this book to my goodreads list!