Wednesday, 10 February 2010

'Wishful Thinking' by Melissa Hill

I have now read another really excellent book by Melissa Hill - 'Wishful Thinking', Hodder and Stoughton, 2008

There is something about Melissa Hill's whole style of writing that just really appeals to me SO much. They are books that I can engage with quickly, whilst at the same time they are quite a challenging read - one often has to get to know different characters that seem at first to be quite disconnected but as the stories unravel the connections start to unfold. The books are written in a very feminine-type of way - sorry if this sounds like stereotyping, but writing is all about liberation and self-expression as far as I am concerned and so this is what I am finding in regard to these books! The plots are very clever, ingenious in fact, I think - they twist and turn and go to places that one would and could never imagine - they really surprise you. Furthermore, they deal with the complexities of human emotions and relationships and the various ways in which people try to deal with different situations. The characters are well-formed and one can relate to them. Also, whilst the plots are complex on one level they also have a certain level of wonderful simplicity to them - the author does not try to be 'flash' just for the sake of it, if you get my drift. Yes, as you can see - I am hooked! I feel sure that Melissa Hill must really enjoy writing her novels as well - I don't think she'd be able to write this way, if she didn't. And what she says in the Acknowledgements about her husband is very nice, I thought: "...much love and thanks to my lovely hubby Kevin. I really couldn't do any of this without you."

So, what is the plot in 'Wishful Thinking' about then? There are 3 different female characters in it, leading 3 very different lives. There is Louise, who got run over (the driver went through a red traffic light), and she is putting in a legal claim for compensation (but it spending rather too much on the credit card in anticipation of this 'windfall'!). She is also now very concerned about her looks and has lost a lot of weight. Secondly, there is Dara who has a good job in the legal profession, but is being pressurised by her family to get married; the family seem very worried about her being 'left on the shelf' now that she is past 30 years. So much so that she marries Mark, but in her mind, he is not the love/the passion of her life. Instead, Noah was - but that went wrong and he has now married someone else. Then, there is Rosie, who has lost her husband and is so very kind to her 2 children, but they take dreadful advantage of her. Personally, I found the Rosie-story line the most enticing; I really liked Rosie, but also really felt for her, and wanted her to 'stand up' for herself' more - which she did in the end, thank goodness.

What happens to these various characters then? Well, everything really comes good for them in the end - the book is very optimistic in this way.

Firstly, Louise gets taken in by a gorgeous looking guy Sam, who it then turns out is just using her for his own purposes/material gain. He testifies against her in court, saying that she is a spendthrift (including her getting persuaded to move into an expensive flat with her friends). Also, he said that she said that the accident was probably partly her own fault, because she wasn't paying enough attention when she crossed the road! Then, we find out that Dara is working for the defence in this court case; she is very concerned about the possibility of Louise losing the case. But Louise doesn't - she gets eighty thousand euros in compensation, so all comes good.

In regard to Dara, Noah comes back on the scene, claiming that he got it wrong and he wants to be with her. Dara thinks that her real passions and feelings lie with Noah, not with Mark, so she sees Noah (although doesn't sleep with him). Meanwhile, Mark shows what a kind, caring person he is - he shows concern about Dara's father's health for one thing, and goes to the hospital with him. Then, it all comes out about Noah - Mark is furious. Dara says she has to make a decision; Mark says, what makes her think that the decision is all hers? He might decide that he doesn't want her any more (they have only been married for about 6 months) - he needs to go away and think. He says that Noah likes it in 2's, like Noah in Noah's Ark - very funny that, I thought. In the end, they sort it out - Dara decides that she does want Mark, and that Noah was in the past, and now over and done with. But how that decision is arrived at will be explained more shortly...

Meanwhile, Rosie is being treated just so badly by her children - I couldn't believe how selfish they were being. Her daughter Sophie wants to buy this really posh house for her husband and child, but they want Rosie to be the guarantor for the mortgage. Which would mean, of course, that if they defaulted on payments that Rosie would have nowhere to live. But she loves her daughter, so she agrees. Her daughter then starts spending money like water, and doesn't seem interested in her mother at all - even when her mother goes to see her, phones her up and makes it clear that she needs her daughter's company and advise. Sophie does not even seem to want Rosie to look after her own grand-daughter, now and then - she prefers to employ someone because she thinks they are 'expert'. Whilst her son David's marriage has gone wrong, and he wants to come back to live with her. He comes back; but he treats his mother quite shockingly. Taking over the house; redecorating it and moving the furniture about in a way that Rosie does not like; being cruel to her dog (to such an extent that he lets the dog out on the street and it gets run over and dies - heavens!); not liking his mother's cooking (he has become a vegetarian) etc. Meanwhile, Rosie joins a painting class, and meets a nice man (the teacher) who rates her artistic ability.

Now, what unites these 3 people is a train crash - they all live fairly near each other in Ireland, by the way. Louise would have been in the train when it crashed if she hadn't been sick and got out - could she use this as a way of disappearing, she wondered? (these were her thought processes before the court case went in her favour). Dara and Mark were both in the train crash, and injured, but Mark's injuries were far worse than Dara's. And it was when facing the possibility that Mark might die, that Dara realised just how much she loved Mark. And Rosie should have been on the train as well, but wasn't either. But her daughter and son arrived at her house, and she overheard them talking, saying that she had been killed in the train crash, and thinking about how best to divide up their inheritance! Poor Rosie - she is speechless. This part of the book reminded me somewhat of 'The Shell Seekers' by Rosamunde Pilcher - a book I read a short while ago (again, being attracted by the cover and the look and feel of it - see previous blog entry). The main character in this book had 3 children who seemed far more interested in their inheritance, and in what they could get out of their mother, than their actual mother. Both of these mothers had to draw a line under their children - and both did this very effectively. Also this makes one think about how important it is to do this in general! For Rosie, this meant moving house, and being nearer her painter teacher, Steve; stop being the guarantor for her daughter's house and telling her son that he can't live with her any more. That all worked out fine; her daughter was able to learn to be more prudent; her son went back to his wife, and she was now going to enjoy her life in the way that she wanted to - relaxation, good friends and lots of painting by the sea.

So, as I say, good things came to all the characters in the end. But of course, this has to be done by making decisions, and not just by wishful thinking. Rosie advises her son not to just live on wishful thinking; him and his wife have not been able to have children (which caused all the problems in the first place). Melissa Hill says:

"But Rosie understood now that wishes didn't just grant themselves. You had to take your wish, and make it happen all by yourself." (p. 373)

All-in-all, a great read!

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