*Warning – spoilers!*
For me, reading is one of life’s great pleasures. There is nothing quite like curling up with a good book, losing yourself in the lives of other characters and living in their created landscapes. I’m not afraid to say I’ve got a pretty good imagination and a good author can cause it to escape to places I’ve never been before through my mind’s eye. Reading makes me relaxed and it genuinely makes me happy. My life would not be the same without a good book!
It’s maybe no surprise then that I studied English Literature at university. I got to read several books a week – a lot of which I didn’t actually enjoy. Despite having a literature degree, I actually consider myself to not be that well-read. I have never finished an entire Charles Dickens novel (sorry Mum) and I can’t remember what happens in To Kill A Mockingbird (*hangs head in shame*). I’d even go so far as saying my degree put me off reading for a little while, because the whole process became a chore.
So when I graduated, it took me a bit of time to get back into the idea of reading for pleasure again. And when I did I promised myself I would read one classic, then one “easy read”. I even copied The Guardian’s list of the 100 best novels written in English to fire my imagination. But every time I come to read a book, I can’t get into a classic. It sits by the side of my bed, neglected, while I look at my phone, read a magazine or write a blog post – anything to not read it! I feel guilty for its rejection. But sometimes an easy read is exactly what you need to wind down after a busy day / week / month / year at work. So that’s how I ended up picking up Jojo Moyes’ The One Plus One from a book stall in a hotel I was staying at recently. At £1 I couldn’t pass it up! It’s a pretty hefty book but as soon as you get reading it, it flies by.
So what’s it about?
Well there are a few characters introduced in the opening chapters, but it soon becomes clear that the focus is on Ed – a high-flying, rich, single guy – and Jess – his cleaner, who is struggling to make ends meet with two kids in tow. It’s a classic story of boy meets girl, with a few modern twists thrown in.
A brief synopsis
Jess’ daughter, Tanzie, is incredibly gifted at maths and gets asked if she wants to go to a posh private school that has a scholarship for gifted kids. Jess can’t afford the entrance fee so the teacher suggests Tanzie enters a maths Olympiad happening in Scotland that Jess has to get the kids to. To get them there and for Tanzie’s entrance fee, Jess ends up stealing £500 from Ed while he’s drunk, which she vows to pay back.
In the meantime, Ed is being investigated for insider trading after giving a girl he fancied £3,000 to get her out of trouble. (Hmmm, a little tenuous but I thought I’d go with it.) After Jess’ car breaks down, Ed ends up driving Jess, plus her two kids and a dog, up to Edinburgh for Tanzie to enter the maths Olympiad. Cue many late night conversations over a couple of beers, much generosity from Ed and several mishaps along the way. The sexual tension is clear and they end up sleeping together.
It all seems to be going swimmingly, so surely now is the time for things to start to go wrong. And right on cue, Tanzie breaks her glasses, fails the Olympiad and decides to give up maths for good. So the troupe head home, where, in brief, Ed finds out Jess stole the money and dumps her. Jess then spends a lot of time moping around, there’s an ex-husband – Tanzie’s father – to deal with and a blog that manages to make almost a grand in a couple of days. (Yeah, right!!) Anyway, plot specifics to one side (remembering details has NEVER been my strong point), it all ends up rosy, with Ed & Jess sailing off into the sunset somehow. I forget exactly how!
OK so I may be being fast and loose with the story line, but The One Plus One has some pretty tenuous plot details. Let’s face it, it was never designed to set the literary world on fire. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good, mindless, fun read, but some of the directions the storyline takes are questionable, even with my disbelief well and truly suspended. The characters aren’t terribly well rounded and too often seem to spill over into stereotype. There are some plot ends left open (what happens to Ed’s Dad?) and some too neatly tied up (the Fishers getting conveniently re-homed), lending the book a general air of silliness.
But you know what, it entertained me for a few nights, it sent me to sleep, it occupied me on a plane – and I did look forward to reading it! It never felt like a chore, even if it did make me roll my eyes a couple of times.
It seems like what I need next is a book that’s intelligently written, well-structured but not difficult to read. (Gosh that makes me sound so pretentious!) But do you know what I mean? Something along the lines of Child 44 – that was good!
Anyway, next on the list is The Girl on the Train – has anyone read that? Is it recommended? Does it sound like something I’d like?! And has anyone else read The One Plus One? What did you think?