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  • Life Skills.

    Excellent read. Loved every minute reading this.

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  • Summer romance on a narrowboat, vintage Fflorde

    Julia realises she is playing life so safe that she has practically sleep-walked into marrying a man she doesn't love and actually doesn't really like very much. When she loses out to a promotion she richly deserves to a helpless man, she receives no support from her boyfriend Oscar who agrees with her boss (one of his golfing buddies) that incompetent men should be promoted over capable women. Julia ditches the man and the job and resolves to do something completely different, her eye is caught by an advert in The Lady for cabin crew for a narrowboat and thus starts her new adventure. Pardon the pun, life isn't all plain sailing. Julia's new boss Suzie is a charming Sloane Ranger type (do we call them that anymore?), a bit of an airhead who has always been supported by daddy's money and doesn't have any normal life skills (like cleaning toilets or frying eggs). The other crew member is a surly man who refuses to do anything other than tinker with the engines and then leaves them in the lurch when the first passengers are about to arrive. Luckily Julia and Suzie are rescued by the serendipitous arrival of Julia's childhood arch enemy Fergus, with a book her mother wanted him to deliver. Julia might dislike Fergus, especially since his mother and hers have been matchmaking them since they were eight years old, but he is certainly a handy man to have around the narrowboats and the passengers love him. I read a review which said that 'although all of Fforde’s novels feature the same plot and are achingly middle class, they are usually a nice relaxing read' and I couldn't agree more, especially about the achingly middle class bit. This was first published in 1999 and it reflects some of the attitudes of that time (although TBH I don't think even then people were as strait-laced about unmarried women having children as this book would have you believe) as many other readers have mentioned. But if you can accept that then this is a lovely gentle romance, with a host of eccentric and lovable passengers, a stalwart hero to whose virtues Julia is wilfully blind and the glories of the English countryside.

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