Review – Being Shirley by Michelle Vernal

Synopsis: “Who’s Shirley Valentine?” Shirley Valentine was Roz’s favourite film. It was about a repressed, middle-aged housewife from Liverpool who spends her days talking to her kitchen wall. When she leaves her husband for an impromptu holiday to the Greek Islands with a friend, she rediscovers her lust for life and decides to stay.
Annie Rivers isn’t middle-aged; she’s thirty-one. She doesn’t hail from England; she lives in New Zealand and she doesn’t talk to the kitchen wall—just her cat.
Her late sister Roz had a passion for anything and everything to do with Greece, including Shirley Valentine and the New Age musician, Yanni. Just for the record, though, Annie never shared in her sister’s love of Yanni’s white trousers, unlike their mutual best friend, Carl. The print that once hung on Roz’s bedroom wall of Santorini now hangs on Annie’s and she’s picked up the pen pal relationship with Kassia Bikakis where Roz left off. Kassia, along with the rest of the Bikakis family, help run her mother-in-law’s namesake Eleni’s guesthouse on the Greek island of Crete. These days, Annie and Kas prefer email to snail mail and in their exchanges, Annie confides how much she hates her new boss and how much she loves the wedding dress she’s spotted in the window of an exclusive boutique. If only her fiancé Tony would actually commit to setting the date and if only she could get the dress to fit. Annie knows she’s drifting along and that something’s gotta give but will she be like Roz and let it pass her by? Or will she be brave like Shirley and grab life by the seat of a pair of white trousers?

The author did a good job bringing the characters to life. The interactions between Carl and Annie were hilariously funny and easy to relate to. I especially enjoyed the descriptions of Ngaire, Annie’s ex-soon to be mother-in-law. She definitely was the kind of person that would make you cringe once you found out she was your fiancee’s mother. It is a lovely tale of a woman refinding her joy in living. Annie had got stuck in rut in her job and love life. She was miserable in both situations and didn’t realize it til after the death of her cat, Jazz. It is the strangest thing about human nature how unrelated events can cause the brain to shift gears.

The story goes at a pretty steady pace but I felt it was a little long. I think that I wouldn’t have felt as long if it continued to move in present tense. The author would sometimes tell the end result and then go back and tell how it happened. It was the only aspect I didn’t like about the novel. The author’s descriptions of locations in Greece were beautiful. Overall, great read for those who love humorous chick lit.

 

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