Sunday, October 16, 2011

Review: Always and Forever by Cathy Kelly

Always and Forever

Title: Always and Forever
Author: Cathy Kelly
Format: Paperback
Pages: 600 pages

My Rating: 4/5

Blurb (taken from Goodreads):

"When the going gets tough.....
In the Irish town of Carrickwell, with its lush, endlessly rolling hills and authentic country tranquility, three women's lives are anything but calm. There's Mel, a compulsively ambitious mother/publicity manager at a high-powered PR firm -- living proof that balancing motherhood and a full-time job is no walk in the park. The hot-headed, indomitable Cleo, just out of college with a degree in hotel management, would like nothing better than to modernize and revive her family's dwindling hotel -- but faces a constant battle with her old-fashioned parents. And finally, there's the stylish, sweet-tempered Daisy, a self-consciously curvy fashion buyer for an upscale clothing boutique, who has been struggling -- and longing -- to have a baby with her absolutely perfect boyfriend. Although unconnected, these three women have one thing in common: they all need a break from their stressful lives.

These tough gals hit the nearest spa!

So each one sets out for a little R & R at the new Clouds Hill spa, built by an American woman with her own secret turmoil. It is there that Mel, Cleo, and Daisy meet -- their worlds and troubles colliding -- forming an intimate bond that helps them to realize what matters most in life, always and forever."

My Review:

I wouldn't normally so thoroughly enjoy a chick-lit novel and, now that I think about it, the storyline was rather predictable but maybe it's due to my utter, irrevocable and foolish love for novels, movies or anything else set in Ireland (a country that I know very little about, but the aesthetic appeal of which continues to draw my hungry gaze)that I was so drawn into the lives of these women. Strangely, I've realised that part of the reason for my lack of knowledge and inability to sympathise with and understand the daily hassles of the contemporary woman is due to the fact that I've never read a good work of chick-lit. I've always felt somewhat alienated from the rest of contemporary womankind and never felt that there were women out there who thought the same thoughts I did or shared the same fears I do, but by delving into the lives of these three strong and yet strangely fragile women, I have discovered a part of myself in each of these three characters.

Of course, being young and single, the character I found I was able to relate to the most was Cleo, fresh out of college with a degree in Hotel Management and out to conquer the world by creating her own hotel empire but first set on helping her parents renovate and raise the standards at their family hotel, The Willow, in their little hometown in Carrickwell. Ofcourse, all does not go as planned, with The Willow eventually being sold to pay off debts to the bank and Cleo going off in a huff after a huge family row over Cleo's not receiving her due recognition and respect and still being treated like a child by her family and her two elder brothers, who could not care less about the hotel, being included in all important decision-making. Her intelligence, creativity, vibrancy, energy and short temper are characteristics that resonated within me. Her close and conflicted relationship with her parents and deep respect for her father are feelings I can all too clearly identify with. Her fiery and independent nature that does not allow even a powerful and demanding character like Tyler Roth to have his way, is what I found most admirable.

Then there's Mel, the hot-shot career woman trying to juggle motherhood and a career while battling tremendous guilt over neglecting her children. Mel's character and her life initially represented all my hopes and greatest fears for the future. I think at some point every women realises that she can't have it all, but many of us spend most of our lives trying so hard to ignore that fact or to prove it wrong that by the time we decide to stop fighting it and adapt to life's circumstances by striking a compromise, we realise just how much of valuable time and energy was lost in the battle. I was really glad to see everything work out for Mel, but could see how easily Mel's life could have taken the route of Caroline's if her husband hadn't been as understanding and supportive of her decision to give up her career to stay at home with the children.

And ofcourse, there was Daisy (Denise), the once overweight Agorophobic teenager with severe abandonment issues who only attaches any worth or value to her life if she has her man, Alex, in it. Although her character initially disgusted me, as I got to understand the childhood issues she had to deal with, such as her cold and unaffectionate mother, I came to realise that just about any of us could have turned into a Daisy and gone through life disliking every aspect ourselves until some knight in shining armour came along to make us feel special and worthy of love.


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