There is nothing nicer than when a book completely takes me by surprise. For Once in My Life, the debut novel by editor, feature writer and columnist Marianne Kavanagh, was one such novel.
For Once in My Life is a sweet, funny, heart-warming story about soul mates. Tess and George both live in London, they went to the same university, and they have the same friends. They know each other, even though they’ve never actually met. Their friends have known for years they’d be perfect for each other – after all, Tess is obsessed with vintage clothes and George is a jazz musician, both belong in another era.
But they don’t meet, and Tess is stuck in an unsatisfying relationship that’s heading towards an unsatisfying marriage, while George feels like nothing more than a glorified nanny in his relationship. Both have veered away from the work of their dreams and have little left to inspire them. Until they finally meet at a birthday party. And they both understand why everyone’s said they should meet all these years. But is it too late?
Spanning a decade, this book is a wonderful illustration of life, of relationships, and how our twenties move into our thirties often without us getting any closer to the lives we had once envisaged for ourselves. It depicts how easily we get stuck in dead-end jobs, far removed from the dreams we once had, and how we get stuck so deep in relationships that in no way fulfil us until eventually we can’t find our way out again. Kavanagh uses Tess and George’s friends to highlight the way other people can often see what is going on, but how, at the end of it all, it comes down to our own decision whether or not to carry on as we are. And in the end, that’s what it is all about: a choice – to live the life we have, or do what is necessary to have the life we want, no matter how difficult that may be.
Tess and George – and all of their interesting friends – are truly appealing characters. You know them, you’ve seen them in a film, you’ve met them. As I read For Once in My Life, I become one of their friends, desperately hoping they’d find each other, because I know they could have – deserved – so much more.
Without a doubt this is a Women’s Fiction author to watch, with a real knack for gorgeous, British romantic comedy. Kavanagh has a unique voice and has produced a delightful novel, and I can’t wait for the next.