Divas Don't Knit by Gil McNeil
|Divas Don't Knit by Gil McNeil|
|Genre: Women's Fiction|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: Newly widowed Jo Mackenzie takes over her grandmother's wool shop when money forces her to build a new life. Bookbag loved this well-written, heart-warming story with some characters which will get under your skin.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 352||Date: March 2007|
|Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC|
When Jo Mackenzie's husband arrived home she was expecting him to tell her about his new job and where they would be moving next. What she wasn't expecting was for him to tell her that he'd been having an affair for the past year and that he wanted a divorce. He stormed out of the house and was killed in a car accident, leaving Jo with two young sons and very little money. To make a fresh start Jo sells their London home and moves to the Kent coast, where she takes over her grandmother's wool shop.
I was having a bad day. Water was coming through a hole in the roof, I'd hurt my neck and the dog was limping. What I needed was a page-turning story with a feel-good factor and Gil McNeil provided exactly what I wanted.
I warmed to Jo Mackenzie straight away. She's in the dreadful situation of having lost her husband twice on the same day but can't in fairness be angry with the person who has caused the problems. She, at least, is alive. Coping with two young boys who have lost their father isn't easy in any circumstances, but Jo knows that she can't make it worse by telling the boys the truth about what an absentee father Nick was when he was alive or about what happened just before his death.
Starting somewhere fresh is never easy. It's the small things like hearing the sound of the sea at night rather than London traffic that bring home quite what a dramatic change Jo has made. There were times when I could have cried for Jo and times when I laughed out loud. It's that sort of a book. Gil McNeil is a witty writer but she's also a brilliant observer of people and the characters in the book really got under my skin. The women are more fully-formed than the men, but then this is a book about women and the men are quite incidental. The children are really quite wonderful characters - to the extent that when I finally closed the book I was quite surprised to find that I didn't have two small boys in the house.
Knitting is the thread that runs through the book, from the shop which was stocked with peach 4-ply when Jo took over, to the Stitch and Bitch group she forms to boost trade, but which produces some unlikely friendships. When an A-list celebrity arrives in the seaside town there's a new buzz and when the celebrity takes up knitting it gives the hobby and the shop a lot of credibility. Apparently, knitting really is the hobby of choice for a lot of celebrities. You don't need to understand anything about knitting to enjoy this book but you might well find yourself inspired to give it a go. Gil McNeil comes from a long line of champion knitters and is currently working on a scarf and a rather tricky jumper.
It's a good story too, with a feeling of real life about it, from the neighbour with the unruly dog to the bossy PTA organiser. There are no wild coincidences or unlikely events - it's simply the story of how one woman, and her friends, cope with tragedy and the building of new lives. Recovery doesn't come easily and there's no magical solution to Jo's problems, but then that's how it usually is in real life.
I did enjoy this book and that's quite something considering that I felt less than good when I picked it up. It's chick-lit, but certainly at the better end. I do hope that there's a sequel: I really want to know what happens next to Jo, Archie and Jack Mackenzie.
Bookbag would like to thank the publishers for sending us a copy of Divas Don't Knit.
If this book appeals to you then you might also enjoy Uphill All the Way by Sue Moorcroft which deals with similar themes of loss and recovery.
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Is it similar to Rosamund Pilcher? It sounds similar.
There's the same story-telling quality as Pilcher, but it's pacier and is more realistic in that every lose end is NOT tied up - there are situations which you feel are on-going. For me it was as enjoyable as Pilcher.
I had to gloss over near the end of your review because I could see some more plot emerging - just a wee bit too much information given away for me. This is exactly the kind of book I like and now I shall set about buying it.