Reviewed by Emma Crowley
Treasure every moment. Life can change in a heartbeat.
It’s a beautiful day in Manchester and four friends are meeting for a birthday lunch. But then they witness a shocking accident just metres away which acts as a catalyst for each of them.
For Laura, it’s a wake-up call to heed the ticking of her biological clock. Sensible Jo finds herself throwing caution to the wind in a new relationship. Eve, who has been trying to ignore the worrying lump in her breast, feels helpless and out of control. And happy-go-lucky India is drawn to one of the victims of the accident, causing long-buried secrets to rise to the surface.
Many thanks to Pan MacMillan for my copy of On a Beautiful Day to review via NetGalley and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.
On a Beautiful Day by Lucy Diamond is certainly a beautifully written book that will leave you a wreck one minute and have you laughing the next. You can't but fail to become deeply involved in the lives of the four main female protagonists, India, Laura, Eve and Jo. I'll admit I haven't read a huge amount from Lucy Diamond. possibly two books maybe three at the most, but it was both the cover and blurb that made me want to read this book and boy am I glad I did. By no means in anyway is this your usual run of the mill women's fiction book filled with clichés and storylines we have all read umpteen times before. No here there are solid, realistic, true to life stories that evoke in the reader a myriad of emotions. The author could have simply gone down the route of giving her characters an easy time but she chose not to and she made them face plenty of challenges, which at any given time someone reading this book could be facing, even though they may have been reluctant to do so. There was one character in particular facing one of the most terrible upheavals and periods of stress in one's life and when it first begin to appear I thought no. No this is too close to the bone for me and I'm not sure I want to keep reading for fear of the way it would affect me. Yet it's credit to the author that I kept going as the topic was written about with such sensitivity, tact and understanding and the full emotion and impact of what was going on came right through. I relished every bit of this story as through such brilliant writing I became deeply involved in the lives of four incredible women.
The catalyst behind the change and transformation that each of the four women undergo throughout the course of the story is a crash. They are having lunch celebrating India's birthday when a van comes along the street careering out of control narrowly missing their table and crashing into a local flower shop. Each women reacts differently but it's not the immediate effects and shock that change the women's lives more so how they deal with their life thereafter that very narrow escape. Everything could have been so different if the van had hit them. In fact it will be different for them all but will it be for better or for worse? In turn the crash makes each women revaluate their lives, to think about life and death and what's important. As we accompany each woman on their own journey the bonds of friendship shine through and make the reader appreciate every moment in their life. To enjoy the good times and work through the bad. Most of important of all is to have a support system there to back you up when things get tough or when it feels like there is an insurmountable mountain to climb. Evie, India, Jo and Laura all have their internal struggles to deal with in the aftermath of such a traumatic event but at the same time they are there for each other no matter how big or small the problem may be. But can everyone share the load or do some prefer shouldering the burden alone as they don't like causing hassle or stress in other people's lives?
There wasn't one character I didn't enjoy reading about in this book. They were all unique and individual with separate, well thought out storylines but when all four needed to be together the scenes worked well. India runs mother and baby music classes. This is not what she had aspired to when she was younger and dreamed of music college and success in her chosen profession. She is married with three children and although happy enough with her lot, the crash and the ensuing near miss has made her stop and question all aspects of her life. She wants to feel more secure and more content with her lot rather than thinking of what ifs all the time. A chance encounter with someone from the past pushes these thoughts even further to the forefront of her mind and to be honest what is revealed is quite surprising and I would never have thought it of the character based on what I had read up until that point. India came across to me as a bit ditzy, muddling along through life hoping for more but never having enough get up and go to go off and achieve it. So when her story is revealed I was quite shocked and it made an awful lot of sense considering some of her unusual actions through the book which I had viewed as wrong to be doing and just being too personal where she wasn't needed.
Jo and Laura are sisters. Jo is just getting over her divorce and acclimatising to living on her own. Some may say it's too soon to even consider dating again but Jo has other ideas as if she doesn't make a move she thinks she will be destined for spinsterhood for ever more. She feels it's the right time to get out there and find someone new who will make her feel happy and complete once again. The events surrounding the crash make her even more determined to do so. Meeting Rick at a local garage, a spark ensues and before she knows it she is living in his flat, no part in thanks to the fault of her own landlord. I thought Jo was so desperate to feel loved and wanted that she rushed into things with Rick and if someone said this she would give them the brush off. But in fairness to her, her determination in dealing with Rick's obnoxious teenager daughter Maisie was to be admired. She never gave up even in the face of extreme rudeness and sharp put downs. Rick seemed to have his head in the clouds and couldn't see what was going on before his eyes. He needed a big wake up call. But again as with India the author played a blinder when it came to Jo's story and the reasons behind certain things. Time and time again throughout the book she had me fooled and I love being surprised when the truth eventually emerges.
Laura wants nothing more than to have a baby with her husband Matt. They have tried and tried without success but Laura doesn't want to give up. She is bored and unfulfilled with her job and the fact the company are launching a baby care beauty range seems to rub things in her face even more. Things come to a dramatic climax and Laura feels as if her world is just crumbling around her. What ensued I felt was very selfish and it felt as if a character saw a get out and run clause and just grabbed it with open arms without fighting the battle in way way. I did enjoy Laura's storyline but in my mind it was perhaps the weakest of the four as I felt Laura didn't get as much time in the story as the other three but that's just my own opinion. I was pleased with her eventual outcome and I am glad things didn't become too clichéd.
My favourite character of all was Eve and perhaps this was because I saw traits of myself in her. Eve works as an accountant and always puts 100% into everything she does. But Eve is constantly putting on a front and none more so than what is going on beneath the surface, what she refuses to reveal to anyone. I totally understood why she did this and I think I would have been the same simply from pure fear, anger and foreboding. Eve prides herself of being in control of everything. She is seen by India, Jo and Laura as being perfect. She refuses to show her vulnerability or any chinks in her armour. So what happens when that control is taken out of her own hands? How will she deal with everything? Pretending the problem isn't there won't make it go away or solve anything? Will she confined in the friends who love and support her? Or will she keep things bottled up for as long as possible?
Eve is well used to keeping her cool and her emotions under cover but now maybe it is the time to unwrap the layers and face things head on? I wondered whether Eve had the strength to do this and the support came from the most unlikeliest of sources. I was slightly worried about this aspect of the storyline that Eve would do something rash and something which seemed all too obvious would ensue. Thankfully the author didn't go down that road. I felt for Eve so much and was rooting for a positive outcome. I wanted for things to turn out OK and not for a battle to ensue and the author could have made things all lovely and rosy in the garden and chosen the easy option but it would have been a let down. Despite some difficult parts of Eve's story to read about, Eve gave me hope, courage and confidence and in a way she found these traits too to help her.
From the outset the key message of On a Beautiful Day is one of redemption, of second chances, of appreciating every minute that is given to us. Don't take things for granted and live life to the fullest at every given opportunity are important things to take on board and they are wonderfully conveyed throughout the book. Jo, Laura, Eve and India all have their issues but at all times when the going gets rough they are there for each other. If the near miss of the crash had not occurred they would still be stuck dealing with the same things and meandering their way through life not 100% happy. What I had expected to be an average, pleasant enough read turned out to be a compelling, emotional page turner which has made me want to go back and read everything by Lucy Diamond that I haven't read yet. She is one talented lady who has written a story that deserves to be consumed in one go. A brilliant book simply not to be missed.