Reviewed by Emma Crowley
When Flora, James and their two teenage daughters are offered the holiday of a lifetime in a chateau in the South of France in return for one simple good deed, they jump at the chance to escape the confines of Clapham, the weight of the mortgage and anxieties over their future for a blissful break.
But Flora didn't anticipate a mysterious guest and a whole heap of family baggage coming along too.
And with James developing a schoolboy crush on a famous singer and Flora distracted by ghosts from her past, their dream holiday suddenly takes some very unexpected turns...
Wish You Were Here is only the second book I have read by Catherine Alliott despite her having an impressive back catalogue of over 13 books. I read last years offering The Husband Next Door and found it to be only an ok read. This new release sounded much better but realistically was only a slight improvement on what I had read before as being truthful only the last 15% proved anyway eventful and insightful. The book reminded me of a novel I had previously read by Fanny Blake as the setting of a holiday villa with a family gathering for their annual break seemed quite similar. I have come to the conclusion that Catherine's books are aimed slightly more towards the older end of women's fiction and that maybe in a few years time they would suit me more. There just wasn't enough going on to hold my interest for over 400 pages.
I was first drawn to the book by what is undoubtedly a beautiful spring/summer like cover. I read the blurb and it appealed to me so I began with some slight trepidation stemming from my previous reading of The Husband Next Door. We met Flora and her surgeon husband James as they return home from what was supposed to be a romantic break in Paris. Things did not go to plan and Flora is left wondering after so many years of marriage and two children has the spark gone and what can they do to get it back? A chance encounter with opera superstar Camille sees James performing a heroic endeavour in saving the life of Camille's daughter which in turn changes the life of the family.
Soon the family find themselves winging their way to a beautiful villa in the French countryside owned by Camille and offered for a month as a thank you for saving Agathe. Normally the family go to James' parents estate in Scotland so Flora views this as a chance to escape the normal routine and the stifling confines of James' slightly different from the norm family. But Flora does not receive her wish as soon James's father, Rachel, Sally (James's sisters) and Flora's best friend Lizzie and Flora's mum all turn up at the villa looking for rest and relaxation. But is that what they find?
I really wanted Flora to stand up for herself to say no I don't want all these hangers on getting a free holiday, it was supposed to be her family time with her husband and daughters Amelia and Tara. Instead even various boyfriends tag along. Flora spent too much time contemplating all of her problems and those of others when as a grown woman I wanted to yell at her, get your act together, stop wallowing and confront things head on. I'm sure she would have been a much more endearing character if she was more open and told her husband about the emotions she was experiencing and why, instead of looking on with jealousy as her mum and sister in law discover new relationships. It's been done before in plenty of books but an old boyfriend in the form of Max making a reappearance really didn't help move the story on at all. It's a bit of a cliché to use this tactic and it would have been nice to read of something a bit different.
The story just seemed to limp on with endless repetition of days spent in the sun or going on a trip somewhere. It needed something in the middle to shake it up and turn everything on its head but this failed to materialise until quite close to the end. At one stage Flora's incident with Michael (Camille's brother in law and handyman at the villa) was just quite frankly ridiculous and the families reaction to what may or may not have happened with Max was just astonishing. To think you could be treated that way by your family is shocking.The only part of the book I can say that I enjoyed was the last part, things finally stepped up a gear, secrets were revealed some unexpected some not so much, issues and dilemmas were resolved and finally Flora got a bit of backbone and expressed how she felt about this stage of her married life and how she needed to change in order to past the past behind her and move forward towards a more positive future. All the characters got some sort of ending be it what they wanted or not but having the action so late in the book I kind of lost faith that people were going to get their comeuppance or else receive the happy ending they were due.
This was a read that attempted to go somewhere but really didn't get moving until right towards the very end. The twists came far too late and yes the author was trying to tie up loose ends and they did help make sense of the story but it was too little too late and far too rushed. After giving two novels by Catherine Alliott a go, I think I will just have to leave this author by the wayside as there are plenty more books to read in my T.B.R. If you are not an avid reader and want something to tide you over for a sun holiday then this will do but I'm sorry to say I need just that something a little more meatier from my reads.
I'd like to thank Emma for reviewing this eBook which we received from the publisher via NetGalley.