Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Book review: How to Fall in Love

How to fall in Love
Cecelia Ahern

She has just two weeks. Two weeks to teach him how to fall in love – with his own life.

Published by: Harper
ISBN: 978-0-00-735051-3

Picked up from the shelf at ASDA, this was a safe buy book when I was off work sick. I've read books by the author before, and not read one that I haven't enjoyed. I tend not to enjoy pure romance novels but Ahern's books have a very pleasant, meandering sort of way about them that I find easy to lose myself in. I have to admit, I didn't get this when it first came out because the title felt just a little bit too saccharine for me at the time, but that all changed when I was feeling unwell!

How to Fall in Love is told from the point of view of Christine, the owner of a recruitment agency in her early thirties who finds herself in the unenviable position of trying to talk a stranger out of killing himself. Adam is 34, and at the end of his tether, but in a fit of desperation, Christine makes him promise to let her show him life is worth living by his birthday... Which is in two weeks.

Fancying herself as some kind of hobby-therapist, and armed to the teeth with self-help books, Christine practically handcuffs herself to Adam and begins talking him through steps to help him win over the girl of his dreams, repair broken family relationships and find meaning in the little things.

It's a testament to Ahern's character writing that someone who is, at face value a bit clingy, and a nosy parker who is meddling with serious mental health problems in the most simplistic way possible, becomes so engaging and likeable. Christine could have appeared very unsympathetic and cloying in lesser hands but Ahern's mastery of writing with heart creates a relatable person whose shoes I had no problem putting myself into.

Adam swings between disarmingly charming and sullen in mood swings that I had no real difficulty believing. As Ahern says in her acknowledgements, she worked with a few clinicians and specialists in depression in order to rework the story until it was 'just right' and I have to say that it definitely shows; the highs and lows, the extreme charisma contrasting against extreme melancholy is a very real thing that I've experienced and seen in people with depression, and the way that so many people around him were unaware of it rings true as well. There are so many ways this subject topic could have gone wrong but it works itself into a wonderfully well balanced story with just the right amount of bittersweet.

The thing with Cecelia Ahern's books is that you never know where the plot is going to take you. I've read books that have been most definitely of the supernatural persuasion (The Book of Tomorrow), and books that have been firmly rooted in the 'real world' such as P.S. I Love you. Something I particularly like about the more recent of Cecelia Ahern's books is that there is always something held just out of sight of the reader to provide that lightbulb moment near the end... usually along with tears!

This really is a truly wonderful story by a very talented writer, and I wholeheartedly give the novel a full 8/10.