Published: 7th April 2016
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Format: Paperback supplied by The Racy Hearts for Kell’s Bookmark Clique Readers Retreat
A novel about love. Raw important love. Small, beautiful love. And what happens when the person you love cannot be yours… Perfect for fans of Rowan Coleman, Jane Green and David Nicholls.
Kate and Becca are cousins and best friends. They have grown up together and shared all the most important milestones in their lives: childhood birthday parties, eighteenth birthdays, and now a wedding day as they each marry their childhood sweethearts, Charlie and Julian.
Kate has always loved Charlie – they were meant to be. Then she discovers that life never turns out quite how you expect it to. And love doesn’t always follow the journey it should.
But best friends are forever, and true love will find a way, won’t it…?
Deep Breath …
These Days Of Ours is a book like no other I have read. It’s sharp, it’s witty, tongue-in-cheek, raw, honest, loveable, devastating, optimistic, unpredictable, fascinating, compelling, enthralling and emotional. I could go on and on for days still, but I’m pretty sure you get the picture.
Reading These Days Of Ours was very much akin to seeing a horrible car crash in front of you, and finding yourself unable to tear your eyes away from the debris. Kate and the rest of the motley crew of characters entire lives, their whole hearts and souls were right there on the page waiting for the reader to breathe life into them, to save them from their misery and to get what their hearts so badly ached for after all this time: love and acceptance.
Set against the back drop of London from the 1990s to the present day, These Days Of Ours is a sweeping and emotional journey as we bare witness to the love and loss experience by a tight knit group of characters. Predominately the story is about Kate and her one epic true love story with Charlie that just keeps hitting bump after bump in the road, with fate conspiring against them. And yet, although this is Kate’s story, and the narrative is indeed told from her perspective, Ashton’s writing is so clever and distinct, that we also know a great detail of about all the secondary main players; we know their loves and pets hates and their personalities and aspirations, all of which are so intrinsically linked to Kate and the book. These Days Of Ours could just as easily have been their story, as it is Kate’s.
Kate’s love life is a mess, and in places just non-existent. But I was totally and utterly compelled and enthralled by her sweet nature and her ever lasting love for that one person she just knew she was meant to be with, but could never have after a nasty turn of events. I’m indebted to Ashton here too, for portraying love at every age and type for what it really is; love and nothing else. What’s more, I loved that Ashton appears to be telling the reader that it’s okay to not have everything together, to not have found your one true love (or have worked it out properly) at 18, in your 20s , your 30s, and even yours 50s. Love doesn’t adhere to a schedule, and if there was ever a book that showcased this, These Days of Ours is it!
This book blew me away. I went in blind having no idea what I was reading (I was gifted a copy by the publisher for Kell’s Bookmark Clique Readers Retreat) as the blurb wasn’t on the back of the ARC. Truthfully I was expecting a saucy romance given the group, but was moved beyond compare with the honest and true love story that unfolded before my eyes. These Days Of Ours is a book about love yes, that part is no secret, but it’s also a book that demonstrates whole heartedly what love is, in it’s every form – between girl and boy, man and wife, best friend, cousin, mother and father, father and daughter, straight, gay, bi, sweet, toxic, – without judgement or reservation. It’s astounding astute and topical because of this, and yet timeless as well, because love speaks all languages and transcends time and space itself.
These Days Of Ours was a riveting read. I was never truly sure where the narrative was going, but I was totally there in the moment with the characters every step of the way. The story itself is compelling, the characters engaging and it speaks to the reader on a deeper emotional level than one might first suspect. One where our own self worth and fears are fully realised.
Ashton has proven herself to be an extremely clever and playful writer with this book despite it’s more serious nature and messages. The narrative itself is largely generational and much like a sweeping saga with drastic time jumps that could be anything from 3 – 5 years at time. Although this at first appears quite dramatic and jarring, you quickly become so absorbed in Ashton’s writing style and her narrative, that you don’t notice it as much until something specific is mentioned (i.e. a character’s age). Ashton also plays around with the form of the narrative, by having each chapter break if you will (they aren’t so clearly define in the book except by time jump) with a party invitation of sorts. I actually really loved the inclusion of these in the book, and found myself looking forward to each one.
Another aspect of this book that blew me away was the sheer unpredictability of Ashton’s writing. Ashton has gone to great lengths to play with the readers assumptions, causing you to smile when you realise that she got you once again. Every time I thought I knew what was going to happen next, or where we were, Ashton would subtly give a hint at the right moment and turn the whole thing on it’s head. I realise this sounds frustrating and like it shouldn’t work, but not only did it work, it was surprisingly refreshing and clever to see.
That’s not to say this book isn’t without it’s issues. Given Ashton’s very distinct writing style, and her conscious decision to set the book up in an unexpected way to keep predictability at bay, the narrative is hard to get into at first glance. When I started the book I was intrigued by Kate and the so called ‘mystery person’ in her house (and that wedding dress that wasn’t) but I found the first 20 or so pages hard going. I was intrigued yes, but the story was jarring and I was struggling to grasp what was actually going on here. I implore anyone who picks the book up to stick with it however, because your efforts are more than rewarded with the truly special gem that this book is and delivers.
Juliet Ashton is the queen at tricking you into a false sense of security and thought, before ripping the carpet right out from under your feet like nothing happened. Even more surprisingly, she is able to pull this off not once, not twice but time and time again throughout the novel without you getting any wiser, or the story more predictable. If that’s not the mark of a true born storyteller, I don’t know what is.