‘The Good Girl’ is a thought-provoking novel with an extremely important message held within it.
The story centres around two female protagonists, Ailsa, the mother of three children and a head teacher at a local secondary school, and Romy, her seventeen-year-old daughter, and heeds a warning for all parents and their children in this modern day world filled with technology, where naïve decisions can have disastrous consequences.
The two different voices of the main characters are distinct. One being written in the first person and the other in the third aids this, and as you read it soon becomes apparent that the story is being told retrospectively. Readers are shown the disastrous event that the novel is leading towards in the prologue, and are carried through the months leading up to it, all undoubtedly with a feeling of dread in their stomachs. The dual narrative enables the reader to see the different viewpoints in relation to the disastrous event and the thoughts justifying each of the characters actions. It’s a fascinating and clever insight into the parallel lives of a mother and daughter relationship and how things can be viewed differently depending on who is doing the observing.
And either way, in the end, the consequences of Romy’s actions have far reaching effects that no one could have anticipated. And both Ailsa and her husband, due to their own past misdemeanours, feel in many ways responsible. For how one is brought up undoubtedly has an impact on who they are and how they parent their own children. However, times have changed an immense amount in the last few generations and parents now are often unable to relate to the lives of their offspring. Technological advances mean that nothing is ever fully erasable or forgotten. Something uploaded onto the Internet loses the ownership of the person in the photo or video and, once out of the hands of its stars, can spread all over the world.
Fiona Neill is very scathing of social media and the Internet and is very clear throughout the novel that she believes it can have a negative impact on a person’s life far after they have had their five minutes of online fame. It’s a lesson that everyone needs to learn. The novel also explores sexting and becoming addicted to Internet porn, both very real issues for all ages.
The book also looks at the different attitudes to males and females with regards to sex. In how men are somehow deemed manly and are revelled if they are highly sexually active, however girls are often broadcast as sluts and deserve everything they get. The inequality is a theme that runs through the book through Ailsa and her husband Harry, as well as their older children. Luke, Romy’s older brother is allowed to bring girls home by the dozen with his parents showing a very relaxed attitude to his private life. And, because he has chosen not to make a live video of said private life that is exactly how it stays.
The sharp writing carries this book along and I found myself thinking about the issues it raises long after I had finished reading it. The characters contain someone that everyone will be able to identify with – even the quirky sex therapists from next door – and the family dynamics make your empathy for each character shift over time.
This book is contemporary and intriguing and definitely something that every adult of teenage children should read. In a world of over-sharing and an Internet that is awake twenty four hours of every day we all need to be thinking about our digital imprint and the effect it could have on our lives and those close to us if something intended to be private reached the wrong fingers tapping at the wrong keyboard.
Thank you to Mumsnet Book Club and Penguin for sending me this book to review. I’d highly recommend it.
For those of you new to my blog, this is one of a series of posts. I started joining in with #SummerOfWords (a linky started by Helen Braid) and writing my novel one bit at a time a couple of months ago; and whilst I enjoy writing these posts, I do find them incredibly difficult. Publishing them makes me more nervous than any other type of post I publish! If you’ve been following and need a re-cap you can read part 5 here. (and if you’re new to my story then you can start at the very beginning here.)
“Hi, are you Megan?” Glancing nervously up from under her recently cut fringe, she took a proper look at Elliot. He was tall, very tall and as he’d asked her who she was she could swear his eyes had twinkled. Bright blue piercing eyes, in the middle of a few laughter lines under suspiciously neat eyebrows.
“Um, hello, yes…Elliot?” She answered, tucking a stray strand of hair behind her ear. Her heart was racing. ‘This is ridiculous,’ Megan thought, ‘ I’ve been in more nerve racking situations than this what on earth is wrong with me?’
“Phew thought I’d approached the wrong person for a minute! Hi, nice to meet you, you look lovely,” Elliot blurted out, knowing that this was a cheesy line and sounded as if he was just saying it because he knew he should. He’d been trained by Sarah to always compliment a woman when she had made an effort, the consequences if he’d forgotten had been catastrophic. Shaking himself out of that thought he looked at Megan. He hadn’t been lying, she did look absolutely lovely. She was simply wearing jeans and a top, but it looked well thought out and he began to relax. ‘Ok, not bad, worst part over,’ he thought. “Would you like a drink?”
“Um, yes please. I’ll have a erm a white wine please.” Megan attempted to smile as she said this, but still feeling nervous and awkward she thought it must’ve looked forced. Wine was a good choice, she must not get too drunk and make a fool of herself. No gin or vodka allowed, they did not mix well with her brain at all, the last time she’d drunk those particular spirits had been very messy indeed.
They found a comfortable sofa and table to sit down at the back of the bar and from a distance looked like a normal couple. No evidence of the nervousness or the fact that it was the first time they’d ever met. If you’d been in the bar that night you’d have smiled at the happy couple in the corner, deep in conversation about travel, family and work, laughing at each other’s jokes. You’d have seen her blush occasionally when he gave her a compliment and you’d have watched him stare at her and smile when she walked to the bathroom. And if you looked closely you’d have seen her relax over the evening, shoulders loosened and brow less furrowed. If you’d been in the bar that very night, you’d have witnessed the start of something initially so very wonderful.
I am joining in with #SummerOfWords and writing my novel one bit at a time! You can read Part 4 here. (and if you’re new to my story then you can start reading it here.)
The B&B was dated but perfectly comfortable. Looking out over the local beach the room was full of items from the sea. Dusty old shells, red and white striped lighthouses and a beautiful painting of a sandcastle sitting alone on a sandy shore. They’d really gone overboard on the seaside theme and it made Megan smile. It reminded her of her son’s bedroom; he loved the beach and every morning woke up asking if they could go.
“No!’ She suddenly said out loud, and quickly that thought was pushed to the very back of her mind. She mustn’t think about them, mustn’t remember what she’d put them through and why she was here, it was too raw, too painful.
Tears pricking her eyes, angry that she’d allowed herself a fleeting memory, she hung her coat up on the back of the door and sat on the bed which creaked and gave way under her. Megan looked out of the window and rubbed her neck, easing her aching muscles that had been tense for so long. She was safe, no-one knew she was here, they were all safe.
The landlady, Mrs Lane, had seemed somewhat nosey earlier when Megan had explained that she didn’t know how long she’d be staying, but had seemed happy to accept payment for three nights. Thankfully Megan had had some cash in her rather worn purse and so was able to book in under a false name, not having to show her real one on a credit card. She really wasn’t ready to be found, not even close so it was important that a gossiping landlady didn’t know anything. Mrs Lane had explained that breakfast was served between 8am and 10am and had recommended a local pub for dinner. Not that Megan was hungry, she rarely was these days and had become gaunt and looked pale. Her physical appearance epitomising the weakness of her mental state. For her brain also seemed pale and was not functioning as it should. It didn’t have what it needed to work. Megan thought of it as something that was broken, that needing fixing, but couldn’t seem to mend it herself.
She reached into her coat pocket and once again twiddled the coin between her fingers. Heads. Tails. Heads. ‘What if it had been tails?’ She thought. ‘Would I still be here, would any of this have happened?’ Shaking that thought off, Megan knew she’d never know the answer to that question. Clutching the coin tightly, she lay down, closed her eyes, and uncomfortably drifted into another restless sleep.
This is Part 3, you can read Part 2 here.
‘Heads, tails, heads, heads, heads, tails, tails, heads.’ The coin flew up and down, twisting in the air, glinting in the evening sunlight that was streaming through the ground
floor flat window.
‘Right heads I’m going tails I’m not, ok?’ Rachel nodded, whilst rolling her eyes, as Megan sat on the edge of her sofa, tossing a coin over and over again. ‘Argh it’s heads, right, best out of three.’ Sipping the large glass of wine she’d poured earlier, which was in fact her third, Megan got up and started pacing around the room. Having been sat, tossing the coin for over an hour now, a change of position was most definitely needed. Knowing in her gut that she’d have to go, it would be rude to cancel now, but at the same time not having the energy or the motivation to actually get ready Megan carried on with her own private battle and the coin tossing.
‘Heads, heads, tails, heads, tails….’
‘Oh just go Megs, stop being such a bloody wuss.’ Rachel interjected, never one for indecisiveness. ‘If it’s that awful then you can just leave, for goodness sake what have you got to lose?’
Good point, thought Megan, she always listened to whatever Rachel had to say. They’d been friends for several years now and not once had Rachel imparted any useless wisdom. But of course, thinking the worst as always, Megan still knew with certainty there was a lot to lose. She’d lost her heart before, and was in no hurry to lose it again. It hadn’t been a pleasant experience and had ended very painfully with the loss of a baby. And the loss of a love.
‘Sod it,’ she gulped yet more wine, ‘I’ll go, but if it’s horrendous then I will hunt you down and shout I told you so repeatedly.’
‘Excellent,’ said Rachel, ‘I shall look forward to that. Now go and get ready or you’ll be late.’
You can read Part 4 here.
This Monday I’m a bit nervous to admit that I have tried something new on my blog. The lovely Helen Braid has set herself a challenge. A challenge to write her novel organically across the summer, and she has opened up this challenge to other bloggers. You can read all about it here. So this Monday I am embracing that challenge and am offering this start to my novel for you all to read! I haven’t written anything fictional since I was at university which was a while ago now, so please be VERY honest in your comments! 😉
The sea air was as refreshing as it was chilling. The escape was complete. Wiping a stray strand of her rusty red hair from her face, Megan stared at the waves crashing onto the rocks ahead of her. She felt eerily calm. The wild waves represented her release, her freedom. They were fierce and strong, characteristics that had got her to this place. They wore down the defenceless rocks that stood in their way. They were noisy, relentless and never ending.
She shivered, and took a deep cleansing breath. Her trusty car parked at the back of the hidden beach was full of almost everything she held dear and everything she would need for as long as the escape lasted. Megan had planned this meticulously and had only taken what was absolutely essential. Pulling her coat around her to protect from the bitingly cold wind she placed her hand in its pocket and grasped a coin tightly. She couldn’t have escaped without it. Grasping the coin so hard it dug into her palm, leaving a small indentation, Megan thought of all she had left behind. The coin absorbed what little warmth there was in her body and strangely comforted her. Everything that had led her here had started with that coin. So small and unassuming, yet so powerful.
You can read part 2 here.
I’m also linking this up with Jaime Oliver and #magicmoments as it’s pretty magical that I’ve finally got round to starting a novel!