Goodnight, Beautiful, by Dorothy Koomson

>> Saturday, October 17, 2009

TITLE: Goodnight, Beautiful
AUTHOR: Dorothy Koomson

PAGES: 433

SETTING: Contemporary England
TYPE: Fiction

REASON FOR READING: I've read other books by Koomson that I loved (and which I promise to review asap!)

Nova Kumalisi's 8-year-old son Leo has been in a coma for days. As she tries to deal with the possibility that he might not be about to wake up any minute, she also needs to decide whether she might need to tell her family what's going on - and her best friend Mal, who happens to be Leo's father, even though they've been estranged since before Leo was born.

At the same time, Stephanie, Mal's wife of 10 years is desperately trying to save their marriage, which is clearly falling apart.

The key to both women's struggles lies in what happened 8 years early, the events surrounding Leo's conception and birth. This is something that is spoiled in the back cover in the edition I had (which is why I'm not including it in this review, as I usually do), but that is very gradually revealed throughout the book, as the action goes back and forth between the present and the past, and alternates between Nova and Steph's points of view and narrations.

Koomson is an excellent writer, and this is a story that grabs you by the throat and doesn't let go. There is just so much pain here, and not just in Nova's increasing realisation that Leo might actually be dying. It's unlike other Koomson books that I've read in that respect -both The Chocolate Run and The Cupid Effect were pretty angsty at times, but in the end were fun and happy. Goodnight, Beautiful definitely isn't that, even if you could say there's some hope in the ending.

Still, even with the painful bits, this is a book I didn't find hard to read. The structure works brilliantly, and made me really wanted to know what on earth had happened (and imagine if I hadn't read that stupid back cover and been spoilt! I would have been desperately turning the pages, I think).

Nova, Mal and Steph are characters that feel real and that I couldn't help but care about. They have faults (especially Mal -I hated him for what he did at times, but ultimately understood him), and that makes them even more interesting.

Would I recommend this book? Definitely, and I'm not a reader who normally goes for depressing books. I recommend it, but with the caveat that you need to be in the right mood to read it, and not expect a romance novel at all.



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