Thursday, June 11, 2020

Book Review: Growing Up for Beginners

By Sara Steven

It’s not easy being a grown-up, but at 47, Eleanor hoped she’d be better at it by now…

But when Eleanor waves her daughter off for a gap-year trip, she finds herself stuck as a satellite wife, spinning in faithful orbit around domineering husband Roger, with only a stash of hidden books and her brilliant but judgmental father Conrad for comfort.

Andrew isn’t mastering the art of growing up either. When he finds his belongings dumped on the drive, although he may not understand women very well, even he can see that this looks like some kind of hint… and so moves back in with his parents.

Backing onto Andrew’s parents lives artist Cecilia, always ready to recount tales of her innumerable ex-lovers, whilst her daughters feel she’s like a misbehaving teenager.

But now four lives are drawn together by long-buried secrets of the past, and it is time for them all to grow up, before it’s too late.

A desperate decision … A lost letter … A powerful secret hidden for thirty years… (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

I appreciated all of the couples in Growing Up, but the couple that really spoke to me had been Eleanor and Roger. So much of how Eleanor operates is due to her childhood, in the type of relationship she had with both parents. This bleeds over into the way she feels she has to be with Roger. I had so many emotional tidal waves while reading about her experiences, in hearing Roger’s voice speak to her in a way that makes her feel less than. I waited impatiently to see what would come of it, if there would come a particular scene or experience where she’d stand up against him. It was powerful and sad all at once.

Eleanor’s life had been partly shaped by Conrad, a man who comes off as stoic and cold. Yet, it was interesting to later learn that there is much more to him beneath the surface, secrets hidden deep. It made him more human, someone who could be relatable. And later, there is a lot of paralleling between the life Eleanor has chosen to live, and the one Conrad chose to live for several years, all in the name of duty. How important is happiness, and does it come at a cost?

Andrew moves back in with his parents; I could feel the stifling smothering that his mother projects onto him. Something I really liked about Growing Up, is we’re given a backdrop into why the characters are the way they are. Much like in real life, so much of our character has been shaped by the type of experiences we’ve had growing up, the role models we had to look up to. With Andrew, it’s hard for him to try and press on and to go outside of his comfort zone, when his parents have always been there to clean up his messes. In a sense, he’s never really lived. They’ve done the living for him.

The introduction of Cecilia brings about and reminds us of the difficult decisions so many of us have had to make in our lives, when the choice to do what is considered the right thing trumps doing what feels right for our heart. It’s skirting that line that becomes the biggest issue of all, and one that we can all identify with. I enjoyed all of the stories presented here, and enjoyed how they’re all connected and relate to one another in some way or another.

Thanks to Rachel's Random Resources for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

Claire Calman is a writer and broadcaster known for her novels that combine wit and pathos, including the bestseller Love is a Four-Letter Word. She has appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour and Loose Ends.

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1 comment:

Murphy said...
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