With the tag line ‘A week is enough to change a life’ I feel that any chick-lit reader will happily pick up this book knowing that they’re in for a good read and a bit of escapism. The multi-million copy bestselling author of sixteen novels, Fiona Walker, has a loyal fan base and although she is known as the voice of the Cosmo Generation of young media-aware women, she will win over readers from every generation with her latest novel The Woman Who Fell in Love for a Week.
Jenny, your stereotypical orderly and organised academic by week, house-sitter by weekend, is coming out of a tough divorce. It is the end of term time and Jenny is offered a last minute house-sitting job, looking after the home and rather enthusiastic (read manic) dog, of a well-known author. In need of a getaway from the museum of marriage which is her own neat and tidy home, Jenny plans to do nothing more than relax poolside for the coming week. Throw in the boisterous dog Gunther, family secrets, a ruggedly handsome artist named Euan, copious amounts of wine, art and music and you’ve got a recipe for a rather different week ahead.
As a colleague of mine said so well, what draws us to a light-hearted chick-lit book is that they often bring very different people together under one roof that eventually influence each other in one way or another. The element of housesitting in this tale means that Jenny is now under someone else’s roof and away from her carefully crafted comfort zone of home. As her week progresses, her temporary home slowly reveals more about its usual inhabitants, the gorgeous Lewis family, as well as its house-sitter.
Jenny is confronted by what appears to be a failing marriage of the owners which forces her to face her own failures in the relationship department. At times rather dark, Fiona Walker tackles post-relationship insecurities and self-doubt in such an insightful, honest and touching way.
Don’t worry, it is not all doom and gloom. Introduce the creative, mysterious, fine wine-drinking (did I mention ruggedly handsome?) Euan and Jenny’s lazy days by the pool are threatened. Jenny likes her plans and unfortunately her ex-husband disrupted her most important plan – the life plan. As a result she has lost sight of what she wants for herself, having been in a controlling relationship for so many years. Having a break from her regular routine, no kids to worry about or cleaning to do and in the presence of the seductive traveller that is Euan, her week of housesitting might offer more than just a holiday getaway.
In just one week, Jenny begins to shed layers of control and frustration. Years of self-doubt, sacrifice and compromise have created a wall of self-control and discipline but with the help of Euan (and a fair few bottles of wine) Jenny is finally given the chance to talk and reveal her true self. With the fall of her wall she finds her self-belief and confidence and finally allows herself to open up to the possibility of love and life.
The Woman Who Fell in Love for a Week is brilliantly funny (poor Jenny ends up in some rather awkward and more often than not disastrous situations with dog Gunther) while simultaneously insightful and heartfelt. It has the light-hearted entertainment value of a good summer read but will keep you guessing until the last page.