Today I bring you a book I was approached to review. I had (have) quite a long list of books to read, but somehow it seemed quite different to the books I had been reading recently, and I remembered that a change is a good as a rest. So, here it is:
31 Days of Wonder by Tom Winter
‘And in that instant, he knows in his heart that today is a momentous day; come what may, he and Alice will meet again, and life will never be the same.’
Alice is stuck in an internship she loathes and a body she is forever trying to change.
Ben, also in his early twenties, is still trying to find his place in the world.
By chance they meet one day in a London park.
Ben spots Alice sitting on a bench and feels compelled to speak to her. To his surprise, their connection is instant. But before numbers are exchanged, Alice is whisked off by her demanding boss.
20 minutes later
Alone in her office toilets, Alice looks at herself in the mirror and desperately searches for the beauty Ben could see in her.
Meanwhile, having misunderstood a parting remark, Ben is already planning a trip to Glasgow where he believes Alice lives, not realising that they actually live barely ten miles apart.
Over the next 31 days, Alice and Ben will discover that even if they never manage to find each other again, they have sparked a change in each other that will last a lifetime. In 31 Days of Wonder, Tom Winter shows us the magic of chance encounters and how one brief moment on a Thursday afternoon can change the rest of your life.
About the author:
Tom Winter’s debut novel, Lost & Found, was published in five languages. In August 2013 it was chosen as the Book of the Month by the Mail on Sunday’s You Magazine book club. That summer, the Kindle edition was also a No. 1 bestseller on Amazon UK. In Germany, Apple iBooks called it one of the ten books that everyone should read over the holidays.
Tom’s second book, Arms Wide Open, was published in 2014. Hello! magazine called it ‘a bittersweet joy of a book’, while Saga magazine said it is ‘utterly compelling… Winter has a lethal eye for family tensions.’
His third novel, 31 Days of Wonder, will be released in August 2017.
Thanks to NetGalley and Little Brown Book Group, Corsair, for offering me an ARC copy of this book (due for release on the 10th of August 2017) that I freely choose to review.
This is a deceptive book. Written in the third person, from the alternating point of view of the two protagonists, where all the action stems from a casual encounter between the two, it feels familiar and we think we know what we’re going to get and where we’re going.
We have two young protagonists (the title reminded me of 300 Days of Summer, although this is chronologically linear, or almost, as the last entry cycles back to the first, from Alice’s point of view this time), Alice and Ben, both quirky, who are not the most popular and do not fit in well with ‘normal’ life (whatever that might be), for different reasons. Alice is overweight, loves food, and as she is doing an internship in advertising is constantly reminded of how important appearances are. She tries to be cheerful and never be negative but does not always manage. We might think she is a bit like Bridget Jones, and well, perhaps there are similarities, but although she has her crazy moments, she goes out of her way to do the right thing and is neither self-absorbed not careless and clumsy by design. Ben has a mental illness (bipolar), but he is not the typical young man who rebels against his condition, refuses to accept advice, and wants to do his own thing. He takes his medication, he questions his odd experiences, and he is fully aware of his shortcomings (that seem to have little to do with his pretty well-controlled illness). He can be impulsive and he talks too much, but he tries his best not to upset anybody.
The two protagonists have plenty in common. They both share an apartment with somebody (Ben with David, his best friend; Alice with Mae, a young landlady from hell), have jobs that do not make them happy, have a difficult and cold relationship with their closest relatives (for Alice, her parents, for Ben, his grandparents), and are looking for something, even if they don’t know what.
Their chance encounter sets things in motion. As I said, readers are likely to believe that this is going to be a romance story where the two protagonists will be separated by circumstances and misunderstandings, going through a number of adventures, and will eventually come together at the end, for the happy ever after, Alice losing weight and showing people at work she is a true winner, and Ben overcoming his self-doubts and becoming a new man. If you have read the description carefully, you might have noticed that it hints at things not being that straightforward (or even twisty but getting us to the expected point). This is not a mystery novel, but I will try and avoid spoilers nonetheless. Let’s say that both protagonists discover things about themselves and those around them, especially that we should not always focus on living up to other people’s expectations (that we might internalise and make ours), but instead, we should try and find what makes us happy, whatever unlikely and even uncool that might be.
The two main characters are well-drawn and likeable. The secondary characters are also well-drawn, some more likeable than others (Ben seems to be blessed with better luck in friends and even in relatives, as his grandmother becomes much more lovable by the end. Alice is less lucky, and her parents, friends, flatmates and bosses are fairly horrible, although Chris has some potential and her parents… well, let’s say they change). There are surprising moments, sad moments, beautiful moments, and ‘aha’ moments of realisation. I suspect readers will identify more with one of the characters than with the other. Ben has the more rounded and significant experience (he insists on doing things from the beginning, even if he has to change plans along the way). Alice seems to be a victim of the circumstances (some self-created). She makes-up things rather than taking action and finds it difficult to say no or give her true opinion. But she does have some memorable scenes and it is difficult not to root for her, although overall I preferred Ben’s character. (And loved the parrot).
A well-written and easy to read story, that flows well, with comedic moments and some sadder ones, that I recommend to people who enjoy stories with quirky characters about ‘normal’ life and human relationships at all levels, with no fancy action, no sex, but a lot of heart.
I will be following the author and will be eager to see what he writes next (and I’m also intrigued by his previous novel).
Thanks to NetGalley, to the publisher and to the author for the book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click and REVIEW! And remember, the book will be published on the 10th of August. (I have a friend, her son, and her daughter [my goddaughter] coming to stay with me next week, so I thought I’d share this ahead of time. If any of you knows where to find last minute tickets for the Warner Studios Harry Potter experience, let me know!)