Saturday, 1 April 2017

Emma's Review: The Bluebell Bunting Society by Poppy Dolan

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

At twenty-nine, Connie isn’t quite where she thought she’d be. When her beloved gran died Connie returned to Hazelhurst, the village she grew up in, and took over her gran’s old job as caretaker at the village hall. It might not be the stuff of dreams, but Connie loves working at Bluebell Hall – the heart of the community fuelled by copious cups of tea.

So when Bluebell Hall is threatened with closure, Connie is determined not to let greedy property developers get their hands on it. She hatches a plan bonkers enough that it just might work. All it takes is a needle and thread, scraps of old material and willing hands.

Can Connie convince the people of Hazelhurst that their village hall is worth saving? And will she save herself in the process…?

Amazon link: Kindle

Of course it was the beautiful cover that attracted me to The Bluebell Bunting Society when I first saw it revealed on Twitter and then that title just screams a warm, charming, inviting read awaits you once you pick up the book. I had never heard of the author Poppy Dolan before but it seems she has previously written two books. This is definitely a chick lit read and it was perfect for the mood I was in at the time of reading. I didn't want anything too taxing or something that required your full attention to keep track of the many strands of the story. Instead here was a nice, simple, light easy read that I flew through in a few hours. The chapters were short and snappy and moved the story along at a nice pace whilst all the time building a picture as to what was going on as our main character Connie battles to stop Bluebell Hall from being torn down for redevelopment. As it says on the cover when the going gets tough, the tough gets sewing and that's exactly happened in this book in the nicest way possible with a few other dramas and some romance thrown in for good measure. Really the perfect formula for this kind of book.

Connie Duncan is 29 and the caretaker for Bluebell Hall, a job which she inherited upon the death of her beloved Gran. Bluebell Hall has been more or less an institution for the residents of the small village called Hazelhurst for so many years. But now the hall has reached a turning point in its existence and in a way Connie has too. It's not the place it once was with damp patches in more than one place, the roof could cave in at any minute and really it's so old fashioned that why would anyone want to come for Funday Sunday or even hold meetings or events there? That's the main problem facing Connie and she is torn in two as to what she can do to change all this for the better given the serious lack of finances and resources that are at available to her. The hall was left as a gift by the late William Herbert who donated the hall as a place for the community to gather to share good times and bad and now the bad times far outweigh the good and something needs to be done. Unless visitor numbers improve the trust that manage the hall will sell the land it sits on and Connie will be left with nothing. 

Throughout this story Connie truly wore her heart and emotions on her sleeve. You could see she had a deep affinity with the hall given all the fond memories she had of spending time there with her Gran and now she relishes her role as Bloom Mistress - Hazelhurst's answer to the Girl Guides. OK maybe she doesn't quite relish her role all the time but it's a tradition and the scenes featuring the little girls and their attempts at dance manoeuvres were hilarious and one girl in particular was so blunt and to the point you couldn't fail to smile when she made an appearance. Connie has continued to do her best since her Gran's death to keep the hall running the way it always has but that's just not good enough any more and with the help of many friends she takes the bull by the horns and is determined Bluebell Hall surely won't go down without a fight.

Connie is driven and passionate in her long term goal for the hall so much so that at some points the reader wonders is she giving it her all for a positive outcome only to forget about herself and what she wants to achieve personally? Connie gathers a few close friends together and they come up with a plan to attempt to get an extension on the time left to save the hall. It's this cast of supporting characters which also help to make The Bluebell Bunting Society the lovely read that it turned out to be. Amidst all the new ideas that come flooding in Connie wonders will the hall be enough for her for the rest of her life or is there more she wants to be doing outside the confines of such a small village as that of Hazelhurst? She continuously battles with her emotions, those that are connected to the past and also long held sentimental memories and questions is she doing this for herself or the village? Could the village survive without the hall or is it just what it needs to bring the community together in a gratifying way?

As I have mentioned the more minor characters, well at first they seemed minor in comparison to Connie, but then they were given their opportunity to come to the fore and shine. Her best friend Steve who was a teacher was always so supportive and the fact that he was a teacher like myself I found I could really identify with him. He is struggling with marking and putting on a school performance and I thought the author had his characteristics and mannerisms down to a t. But when push comes to shove he is there for Connie and his wife Lucy was just as good a character. They seemed to be a great team together and brought this through with helping out with the bunting idea allowing a real sense of community, friendship and togetherness to develop at a lovely pace that felt natural and in no way forced.

Flip a fairly new resident to the village could have been your typical yummy mummy character newly arrived from the big city and throwing her 'ways' around and it was such a relief this wasn't the case. She was practical and to the point and her ideas were all valid and even if people didn't want to participate in the plans to save the hall she nudged them in the right direction without being overbearing. Father and daughter duo Dominic and Polly really did tug at my heartstrings with their storyline. It was emotional and realistic and written to perfection making it easy for the reader to feel sympathy and in some ways respect for the way their story line all played out. The only thorn in the ointment apart from the threatened loss of the hall seemed to be new Scout Leader Alex who had more than one role to play and I was curious to see how this all panned out.

The Bluebell Bunting Society was a gorgeous read that definitely did prove when the going gets tough the tough get sewing and if you wonder how everything turns out you wouldn't do much wrong in picking up this colourful, delightful read to discover the outcome.

Many thanks to Canelo for my copy of The Bluebell Bunting Society to review via NetGalley and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.

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