Sunday, October 31, 2010

Review: All You Need is Love

All You Need is Love by Carole Matthews
3.25 stars

Reasons for reading: plucked it from the booksale to be a bathtub book; Chick Lit for Four Month Challenge

Description: ". . . Sally Freeman wants a better life for herself and her son Charlie. But it’s not going to be easy when their home is on a run-down Liverpool council estate. Just as Sally’s mission to improve their surroundings gets under way, she’s offered a ticket out of there, in the splendid form of Spencer Knight. He has everything she could wish for – the looks, the charm, not to mention the wallet. But is he the answer to her prayers, or does her hapless ex-boyfriend Johnny still hold the key to her heart? As Sally decides what to do, she discovers that if The Beatles are right, and all you need is love, then everything else will fall into place.

First line: "Sally Freeman, Single Mum and Superwoman, to the rescue again."

My thoughts: This was a pretty good, quick chick lit read. I liked the Liverpool setting and the Beatles references. Johnny is a lovely character - way better to Sally than she deserves. His secret struggle to be an artist and the far-fetched but fun twist it takes to make him a success was one of the best parts of the book. The book is completely predictable, in the way of almost all chick lit/romances.

I liked that the residents banded together to clean up their horrifying council estate. It was very heartwarming and I bet it could happen, but I think it would take more time and setbacks than Sally had.

And Sally. I didn't particularly think she was a superwoman. She doesn't appear to have ever held a job, any job, in her life. She's been on welfare since she had her son at 17 (fair enough) and now he's 10. She is attempting to finally get some skills as the book opens, but come on - she couldn't have been a waitress, she couldn't have somehow found a way to get some education in 10 years? To me, that would make her a superwoman (and I know there are tons of superwomen out there!). She doesn't seem to do anything but help a couple of elderly neighbours and cook meals for her son who, at 10, could probably make his own peanut butter sandwiches for lunch. The same goes for her hard-drinking, bitchy friend Debs - a trained hairdresser (with no kids) who makes money under the table doing hair at home, but is still on the dole. She uses her extra money for booze and sparkly dresses. Sally depends very heavily on Johnny (who is the sole caregiver to his disabled mother) to help with looking after Charlie, even though she's dumped him repeatedly, takes him for granted and tells him to do one thing and then gets mad when he does it and changes her mind. Everything is about what Sally wants for herself and Charlie. I get that she has to be focused on her son, but quite often it seems to be at the expense of consideration for other people. And once Spencer comes into her life, she dumps Charlie on anyone who will take him. Spencer is sweet but over-the-top clueless about life outside of his country manor and his family is stereotypically evil, sneering at Sally for being below their son.

While Sally is impressive with the estate makeover and has great future plans by the end, I never really found her particularly likable. The best parts of the book are Johnny and Charlie (who, underneath his 10-year-old-ness is a sweet boy; the scenes with him trying to be worldly with his best friend Kyle, who is a self-proclaimed expert on everything, particularly women, are a hoot).

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