Saturday, 24 December 2016

Emma's Review: The Forgotten Girl by Kerry Barrett

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

Two women. Two decades. One story.

Fearne has landed her dream job to run Mode. Except the dream isn’t quite so rosy in reality, the print magazine is struggling and Fearne is determined to save it!

In 1966, desperate to escape her life, Nancy moves to London with her brilliantly unpredictable friend Suze to achieve their dream of writing for Mode magazine together.

For Mode to survive Fearne needs to recreate the magic of the early issues and she is on track to find Suze – Mode’s longest-serving editor. Unbeknownst to Fearne, what she uncovers might be the biggest story of her career…

Amazon link: Kindle

Little did I think when I began The Forgotten Girl by Kerry Barrett that I would come across such a gem of a book so late in the year. There have been quite a few new authors I have discovered in 2016 purely because I liked the look of their book covers and then thy turned out to be some of my best reads over the course of the last twelve months. This book was no exception as it was the haunting, intriguing cover that first caught my eye and then having read the blurb I knew I really wanted to read this story. It is classed as historical fiction and I can see why but I wouldn't call it my usual historical read of which I devour heaps of every year. This doesn't focus on World War One or Two and for a change that was really refreshing.

The Forgotten Girl merges the past with the present in an exciting, innovative way and once I had started to read I found increasingly difficult to put down as I quickly became lost in the story of Fearne and her attempts to put Mode magazine back at the forefront of the women's magazine industry. To me The Forgotten Girl was perfect for those who love chick lit and also a dash of history thrown in. I had never read a story quite like this before and the pace was excellent throughout providing a good solid storyline and also great character development. I didn't really know how everything would all turn out or what 'the twist' could be until a paragraph made me stop and think and I did work it out. But this didn't in anyway detract from my enjoyment of the story and I couldn't recommend this enough.

We meet Fearne Summers as she is beginning her first day as editor of Mode magazine. She is nervous and apprehensive as to what the future will bring. She is literally in the door when she discovers the magazine is publishing at a loss and is a ship that is rapidly on its way to sinking. Fearne wonders why on earth did she leave her previous job to join a magazine whose reputation was once so golden but now is tarnished and not as fashionable as it should be? Maybe it's because it has been Fearne's dream to work at Mode since she was a teenager and that once one has a dream you would do anything to see it fulfilled. Fearne should be relishing her new role but along the way she has upset her best friend Jen, who also works in the publishing industry, by abandoning ship on plans they had to launch their own magazine. Fearne is now at a crossroads and it's from this point her ambition and determination shines through at every opportunity. She is given six months to turn things around or else the magazine will shut down permanently. She may not have the most willing staff full of fresh, new, innovative ideas that will set the publishing world alight but she firmly believes she can do something and they will not go down without a fight. Although it doesn't help her ex boyfriend she last saw in Oz when she ran out on him has turned up and is now working on the magazine too. But maybe everything has a silver lining and happens for a reason.

Fearne was a character not without her faults and in a way she did push Jen to one side in pursuit of her own ambitions but they both sort of back stabbed each other. In reality alot of things like this happen and I'm glad the author gave us the brutal truths of the magazine world and that a shiny glossy magazine doesn't appear on news stands without some drama and fuss along the way. Despite Fearne's faults I really did love her as a character, yes she may have wavered at times when things got particularly tough and she felt she saw no light at the end of the tunnel. Things seemed to be going to plan and then the author spices things up again with a few upsets and twists and turns. They all happened at just the right time and showed things are cut-throat and it's every man and woman for themselves in an industry where everyone tries to out do one another. Once they have done that they then set new targets for themselves always in a competition to be the best. You could see the pressure on Fearne was relentless but she wanted to climb the career ladder and the closing of Mode was not an option she was willing to even contemplate unless a good fight had been put in before the final nail in the coffin.

The dialogue throughout was snappy and to the point and more than once brought a smile to my face especially when some home truths were told. One thing that shone through in this book was the creative talent the female characters had. I liked how they were strong and could be considered to be at the top of their game in their career and Fearne was going all out to prove this. They were doing a job they loved and they weren't weak and lacking ambition. Fearne was a character people would aspire to even if at times she did need pulling back and  to be told think about others. But truly I loved her gutsy nature and her drive.  So what of the past element of the book? Was it as strong and well written as events occurring in the modern day? How did it connect with Fearne and her story at Mode? I can say with no hesitation that both aspects of the story were super strong and I felt there were no weak elements within the book at all. They gelled so well together and the author showcased the many similarities between the female characters even though they were decades apart.

Nancy and Suze's story is set in the 1960's and they meet in unusual circumstances but their love of writing, fashion and current affairs brings them together and forges a friendship that sees them strive to join the team on a new magazine being established in England having had great success in America. Nancy is not all she seems, she leads two different lives which must have been hard to maintain and keep everything separate. At home she going out with a man who really does nothing for her yet she finds herself engaged to him. Her mother died when she was young and her father has never been the same since. He is a man who wouldn't like the wider world to know just what he does. Once Nancy leaves the house every morning she transforms from the girl 'working' in an insurance office into a trendy young girl of the sixties when fashion, music and writing are booming and embracing all the changes that are coming.  Nancy is a secret junior writer for a magazine but like Fearne in the present she has huge ambitions and meeting the enigmatic Suze who has led such a different life to that of Nancy may just lead her to some changes she never thought possible. The detail of all the sixties clothes, music and life in the publishing industry was fascinating and it was evident so much research had been undertaken. As like with Fearne in the present I fell in love with Nancy whereas Suze I was just that little bit wary of. I was really keen to see how the two stories would merge and would resurrecting the past have any bearing on the future be it in a positive or negative way.

The Forgotten Girl offers something for everyone and proved to be a book that became increasingly difficult to put down. The characters, setting and storyline came alive on the page and even though I may have discovered the twist I did so quite later on. The reasoning, thought process and explanation behind it all was riveting and I was left gasping at what unfolded. Does Fearne make a success of the magazine in the present day? Will elements of the past help her in the future? How does the author connect the past and present so effortlessly that keeps the reader hooked and interested? Well I would say do yourself a favour and buy this book to find out. Kerry Barrett has written a wonderful story that took me by complete surprise. It had a nice sense of mystery which made for a real page turner. It wasn't full of love and romance and boy meets girl and they have issues before getting together. That has been done to death or maybe just my reading tastes are altering and I need to change things up every now and again. No The Forgotten Girl was a treat to read and a book you shouldn’t let pass you by. I'll definitely be looking out for what Kerry Barrett publishes in the future, she has a successful formula with this book and should stick to it.

Many thanks to Carina/HQ Digital via NetGalley for my copy of The Forgotten Girl to review and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.

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