Friday, July 18, 2014
'This Holey Life' by Sophie Duffy
… that was the point at which I should’ve put my foot down. Stamped it hard. Stopped the past repeating itself. But what did I do? I did what Mum used to do in times of crisis. I left the room and went to put the kettle on.
Vicky is a reluctant curate’s wife, struggling to come to terms with her own bereavement and her husband’s new-found faith. Then, one Boxing Day, a knock on the door brings her annoying big brother, his teenage son and a cello into her life, turning her world upside down.
With her small terrace house in Penge now fit to burst, Vicky struggles to manage her three children and the joys of everyday family life. As a new threat lurks behind every corner, hope appears in the most unlikely of circumstances.
An enchanting, funny, sad yet bittersweet tale of life and living, one that reminds us it’s not a race at all… but a journey.
The theme of Vicky's whole life has been comparing herself with her older brother, Martin, and feeling that she's fallen short in every way, encompassing career, family, suburb and spouse. She's grown up with the impression that it was always her lot in life to be second best. So she begins to panic the day after Christmas, when Martin and his ten-year-old son, Jeremy, knock on her door, looking for a temporary home. It seems his accomplished, but long-suffering wife has booted him out. Vicky is too 'nice' to say no, but braces herself for the implied put-downs and disapproval she's always expected from her brother.
I couldn't shake off the impression that a big part of Vicky's problem is that, for a chunk of the book, she doesn't value the many blessings in her life. When you take all the good for granted, and grumble through your day, you are bound to find it full of hard work and fall into bed, exhausted. When she married her husband, Steve, she thought she was getting a plumber, never expecting him to change career and become a curate in the Church of England. Vicky has never worked out how she feels about God, so is uncomfortable in her role as a clergy wife. She has three healthy young daughters, but always darts her thoughts away from the baby son she lost whenever they head there, which is frequently. I did feel very sorry for her for that. Smothering your grief because you feel there's nothing you do to make it better and should be over it, really is exhausting.
The book is written as a bit of a comedy with serious undertones. I liked the British setting, reminiscent of 'The Vicar of Dibley'. Martin did come across as a colossal pain in the neck for the most part, but it's interesting to reflect that we are seeing him through the lens of Vicky's point of view. Having the book written through his eyes would make a totally different story. I did feel a soft spot for Jeremy, perhaps because he reminds me of my own 10-year-old son, who is also large for his age and very sensitive.
It's worth getting to the ending, which is quite satisfying, as Vicky forms some new personal philosophies. Having read another novel by Sophie Duffy which had a huge twist, I was wondering if there would be something similar in this. There were some surprises.
There are some nice quotes. I especially like this reflection of Vicky's about her husband. 'Life is simple for him these days. He hands his worries over to God, whereas I gather mine all around me like a class of small, uncontrollable children.'
Thanks to Net Galley and Legend Press for a review copy
This Holey Life available from Amazon