Book Review – Where Rainbows End by Cecelia Ahern

Where Rainbows End review - Pinterest Graphic

Where Rainbows End, or Love, Rosie, as it is more popularly known is one of the sweetest, most heart-warming books that I have ever read. Upon finishing it last night, well into the early hours of the morning with the heavy weight of sleepiness settling over me, I found myself turning the final page with a warm feeling in my chest and a smile on my face. If the aim of this story is to encompass the feeling of falling in love, then I think it succeeded.

Back in January, I watched the film Love, Rosie, on one of those rare quiet nights in at university when I felt like I needed a good rom-com in my life. I loved it immediately. The characters, the story, the soundtrack, the imagery, and the general feeling of the film was me all over. And when I found out that it was based on a book, I knew that I had to read it. I bought it the next day.

Where Rainbows End is, however, very different from the film. Although the characters, concept and heart of the story remain the same, there are several big differences. Personally, I found that this did not detract from either of them, but instead gave me more to look forward to as I was reading the book without knowing exactly what was going to happen next.

The book is about best friends, Rosie and Alex, who grow-up together but circumstances cause them to suddenly live on different sides of the world. The book follows them through their lives as they remain in contact, struggling to both fight off and come to terms with their feelings for each other. But life is never as simple as that and sometimes reaching a happily ever after takes a fair bit of time and effort.

The most unique thing about this book is that it is written in the form of lots of different documents – letters, emails, chat-room messages, newspaper clippings, and even a couple of obituaries. By writing in this unconventional prose, Cecelia Ahern has perfectly encapsulated a sense of life that many books fail to do. As we read from the points of view of different characters, their believability is so strong that I almost feel like I really know them.

I also feel like this form lends itself perfectly to the romance genre. There is a romanticism to letters that is often forgotten nowadays, and if this book had failed at everything else, the one thing that it has definitely done for me is give me a new goal of writing more letters. As we rifle through Rosie’s assortment of lifelong documents, we explore the journey of the characters’ lives in a new and revealing way.

So many themes are explored in this book, but some of the ones that stood out to me were love in every form – family, friendship and romantic – following your dreams, and the circle of life. All of the characters strive to achieve their personal goals in life, and I feel that this adds a whole other dimension to the story, making it more than just your typical romance novel.

One of my favourite concepts of the book is the use of mirroring between the generations. Rosie is best friends with Alex, and her daughter, Katie, is best friends with Toby. Alex dreams of becoming a doctor and Toby dreams of becoming a dentist. And both pairs struggle to realise their true feelings for each other. I thought that this was a very clever way of encouraging Rosie to act on her feelings, as she did not want her daughter to make the same mistakes that she did.

I also found that the timeline of the story was important. Unlike in the film where Rosie and Alex reach their mid-thirties, in the book they go all the way to fifty without recognising their feelings for each other. There is something so poignant about the thought of going half a lifetime without finding your soulmate. This may be just because I am used to reading stories where the characters are much younger at the point of their happily ever after. However, I believe that the concept of finding love at fifty is important. It reflects reality in that sometimes it does take a long time, but the end isn’t what is important; it’s the getting there that matters. All of the characters lead full lives and their years do not go to waste.

But their romance is pretty important too.

I’m so pleased that I found this book. It is bursting with all of the happiness and heartbreak of life, stitched together in a unique way that tells a beautiful, poignant story of true love. I highly recommend it to everyone who loves a good rom-com or chick flick, or who just needs a little bit of love in their lives. Where Rainbows End is practically the definition of the word ‘love’.

And if you don’t feel like reading, then at least watch the film. For Sam Claflin, if nothing else.

Star Rating: 4/5

Author: Cecelia Ahern
Publisher: Harper Collins
Year of First Publication: 2004

Two Days at the Derby Book Festival

This week was the grand opening of Derby’s debut Book Festival. This was the first year that the city has put on the festival and they definitely pulled out all the stops. The week was packed full of exciting events, from writing workshops to performance poetry. Special guests included Rufus Hound and Michael Morpurgo, author of War Horse.

I attended two of these events. The first one was ‘A Conversation With David Nicholls’. David Nicholls is the author of the bestselling novel, ‘One Day’, and also the screenwriter of many Hollywood films including ‘Great Expectations’ and the recent ‘Far From The Madding Crowd’. David Nicholls is a very funny, down-to-earth man. He told us all about how he came up with Douglas, the main character of his new novel, Us, and how one particular incident in the book was inspired by a real life event involving an angry biker gang in Amsterdam.

The other event was on publishing – both the life of a publisher and how to get published. As someone who one day dreams of being published, the information I learned from this event was invaluable. The speakers – Julia Murday, a publicist at Penguin; Karen Ball, a publisher of children’s books; and Diane Banks, a literary agent – were fantastic. They explained what they look for in an author, and also gave advice on how to self-market your books. For example, we were told that as long as you’re careful with what you put out there, being active on social media is a huge help to your career, as it enables you to prove that your have contacts and potential book-buyers. They also stated that it’s incredibly important to keep an eye on the ever-moving trends, so if the time for bestselling sci-fi novels has passed, hold onto that manuscript and wait for the trend to come back round. Publishers are much more likely to choose your book if it fits in with the bestsellers at the time.

I highly recommend visiting a book fair to those of you who enjoy writing and reading. There are so many opportunities out there to meet and network with other people who one day might just be the contact you need to take a leap into your career, as well as all of the events that are held to teach you everything you need to know about the industry. There are over 350 book festivals in the UK, and the number keeps growing as they become increasingly popular. This was my first time attending one, but I know it will not be my last. I can’t wait for next year’s!derby book festival1

BOOK REVIEW: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

I think it’s something extraordinary that, while I’d usually have about five books on the go and switch between them, as soon as I started reading The Maze Runner, all other books were forgotten. Honestly, this book is something special. From the moment I opened it, I fell in love. The moment I closed the last page, I felt like I had been told the meaning of humanity.

The book opens with the protagonist, Thomas, waking in an enclosed space with absolutely no memory of his identity, pulling us in with the first and possibly most important mystery – Who is Thomas? Soon after, we are introduced to the other characters: tough Alby, sweetheart Newt, scary Gally, lil’ Chuck, and later, superhero Minho. And let’s not forget the plot’s trigger, our gorgeous, independent lady whose name I shall not mention.

It is impossible not to become attached to these characters, even the most despicable of them. They all have their own set of unique traits and flaws, and Dashner builds the different relationships between them beautifully.

Quickly, we learn that nothing is quite right in the Maze, a horrible place with seemingly no escape, where the boys have been living for years. And not only are they trapped; they’re trapped with the Grievers! The Grievers are awful, half-machine half-animal creatures that stalk the maze, coming out mainly at night. You don’t want to get stung by them (although they also offer worse ways to go), or you’ll have the Changing to look forward to. Not much is known about the Changing because the only ones who have been through it refuse to talk about what they saw, but their pain is obvious. No one is the same after the Changing.

The entire book is a thrill to read, with twists and turns right up until the last page. Nothing is as it seems, and no one can be trusted.

Who would I recommend this to?

  • Sci-fi fans
  • Hunger Games fans
  • Anyone who is interested in seeing the film (read the book first!)

Star Rating: StarStarStarStarStar

(The Maze Runner will be in cinemas from 10th October, 2014)

Entering Fictional Worlds

The thing that I love the most about reading, writing and binge-watching TV shows on Netflix is that they introduce me to new worlds, ideas and people that I never would have known otherwise. They completely sweep me away. It’s not that I’m not satisfied with the world I live in now because I freaking love my life, but fictional worlds give me a sense of exploring my world deeper.

One of my favourite questions to ask people (and I do ask it quite often) is which fantasy world they would most like to visit: Narnia, Hogwarts, Neverland, Wonderland, Panem, Middle Earth or Westeros? All of the characters from that world would be there for you to interact with. You can explore the worlds to your heart’s content. I think the answer that people give is always interesting. It says something about the person – not only that they are a fan of the story, but also what they want out of life. The kind of people they want to mix with. The kind of adventures they want to spend their lives having.

My answer is Hogwarts. Make of that what you will.

Just think. When you’re standing in the middle of a library, you’re surrounded by thousands of different worlds. Thousands of different characters to get to know. Thousands of adventures to be had. And when you write, more worlds, characters and adventures spill from your fingertips.

Everyone has a story in them. A writer’s job is to dig deep and pull them out in as many different ways as they can want. An artist does the same thing. So do actors, directors, musicians, chefs, builders, and basically every job you can think of. Everyone’s story is different. So is everyone’s world.

There are over seven billion people on Earth. That’s seven billion different stories. Seven billion different perspectives of the world they live in. I once read that every single person you meet knows something that you don’t, and I think that is a magical sentence.

What’s your story?

Lost Girl

I am obsessed with Peter Pan, and it’s not just because I have a crush on Robbie Kay who played him on Once Upon A Time. It is the entire concept of Neverland. The conflicts between childhood and adulthood, dreams and reality, innocence and corruption, and freedom and responsibility resonate with me more than they ever did before.

As I am reaching my eighteenth birthday, it might seem silly to some people that I’m so attracted to a fairytale. Truthfully, the story of Peter and Wendy never interested me much when I was younger. It’s only now that I’m approaching uni and have to think about earning money that I really understand what it’s all about.

In the early 1900s when JM Barrie wrote the play ‘Peter Pan or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up’, childhood was cut short very early. The ages of the characters are never specifically stated in either the play or novel, but Peter is described as still having all of his baby teeth, and Wendy is just his height. Nowadays, childhood seems to stretch on for as long as possible. In early adolescence, children seem desperate to grow up, unlike Wendy.

Now, at seventeen going on eighteen, I find myself torn between wanting to live my own life in my own house, earning my own money. But, at the same time, the thought of all that independence terrifies me and all I want to do is crawl back into my childhood and hide there forever. Maybe that’s why I love the idea of Neverland so much.

Can you imagine how wonderful it would be? Someone turns up on your windowsill and whisks you away on an adventure full of more excitement and happiness than you have experienced in your entire life. Unfortunately, there are laws against that kind of thing now.

But at the end of the day, Wendy makes the ultimate decision and says goodbye to Peter, returning home with her brothers to face the inevitable challenge of growing-up, a feat that Peter was never able to accomplish. And it is so sad. The novel depicts the sadness of it much more than the Disney film.

Peter promises to return every year to take Wendy back to Neverland so that he would never forget her. But he does. Because time doesn’t work the same in Neverland, and although he holds to his promise for a couple of years, he soon leaves her for many years. In that time, Wendy gets married and has a daughter. Then, one night, Peter returns to take Wendy (or whom he believes to be Wendy) back to Neverland for her annual visit. And so occurs one of the most beautiful, heartbreaking scenes that I have ever read. Wendy wakes from her chair in the shadows in the corner of the room and sees Peter standing over her daughter’s bed. Peter cheerfully explains that he’s returned after a year to take her away, and Wendy says that it has been longer than that. It has been years. And slowly, Wendy emerges from the shadows and Peter recoils. She’s all grown-up. In the end, Peter takes her daughter to Neverland, and then her granddaughter, and so on. But he always forgets them.

If that hasn’t tugged on your heartstrings enough, then maybe this piece of information will. JM Barrie grew up with seven siblings. When he was six, his fourteen-year-old brother, David, died. His mother was so devastated that Barrie tried to fill his brother’s place by acting like him and wearing his clothes. In Margaret Oglivy (1896), Barrie described a moment when his mother saw him and asked, “Is that you?”, to which he replied in a small voice, “No, it’s no’ him, it’s just me”. He said that his mother took comfort in the fact that David would remain a boy forever and never have to face the horrors of growing-up and difficulties of adulthood.

This adds a whole new side to Peter Pan, who clearly has similarities to Barrie’s brother. The idea that Peter leads other little ‘lost boys’ to the place where they never have to grow up suggests that Peter makes it easier for dying children to move on. It is a sad but oddly comforting idea.

Peter Pan clearly has many layers and themes that are not as obvious as we thought. It is about more than just the struggle of growing-up; it is about the more complex ideas of life, death and love.

I strongly recommend that you read JM Barrie’s Peter and Wendy. Barrie writes in an imaginative style that is completely unique to him. His use of often surreal imagery creates an atmosphere that you can just lose yourself in. You won’t be disappointed, I promise.

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On a different note, my dad now has a blog in which he posts reviews of films, TV shows and books. You can visit it here.