Monday, 5 June 2017

Review: The Lie of the Land by Amanda Craig

I absolutely loved this book! Wickedly funny with brilliant characters, I could hardly bear to put it down. The story is about Lottie and Quentin Bredin, who are forced to uproot from London and settle in the wilds of Devon because they can't afford to divorce. Dragged along for the ride are Lottie's son Xan and their young daughters, the precocious Stella and good-natured Rosie. Most of the humour comes from the shock of exchanging their lovely home in the city for an old farmhouse, which is damp and overrun with mice (and, on one occasion, a large rat). Worse still, there's barely any mobile phone signal or Internet. And then the Bredins find out exactly why the house was so cheap to rent  - and what happened to the previous tenant ...

The joy of this book is in how the characters deal with (or, in some cases, don't deal with) adversity. Lottie is a control freak, trying desperately hard to keep her family from going under while utterly devastated by Quentin's serial infidelity. Quentin is a self-obsessed idiot, who spends the first half of the book trying to claw his way back into the London elite, gatecrashing the parties and clubs where he used to reign supreme. Unfortunately he never spent much time being nice to people on the way up, so they are all quite gleefully watching him get his comeuppance on the way down.

Pampered teenager Xan, who has failed to get into Cambridge and sulkily refuses to consider an alternative university, has a horrible shock when he finds out they can't even afford Netflix and he is forced to get a job at the local pie-making factory. (After reading about his adventures, you'll probably never want to eat a ready-made pie again!)

The story is told from each viewpoint over the course of a year, with the addition of Sally, a local midwife, who first meets Quentin when his car forces hers into a ditch. Despite this, Sally becomes good friends with Lottie and we also see village life from her more sensible perspective.

The plot skillfully covers the harsh realities of divorce, caring for elderly parents, trying to fit into a new community, poverty, infidelity and infertility. Despite the humour, the story was a little dark in places, particularly with regards to the mystery of the previous tenant - and exactly what happens to that meat before it ends up on your table as a Sunday roast. 

My favourite characters were Xan, who was the first to realise what a sheltered life he'd been leading, and his step-father Quentin - even though Quentin was so horrible: "Without selfishness, I'll have a life of misery and boredom."

The Lie of the Land is one of my favourite reads this year. Recommended if you love cleverly written stories about eccentric characters, with a bit of humour and a mystery thrown in. I'll definitely be seeking out more of Amanda's books!

Thank you to Amanda Craig, the Little Brown Book Group and Netgalley for my copy of this book, which I received in exchange for an honest review.

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