Poor Alice…

As with most books, the first thing I did when I received Carol Marinelli’s Putting Alice Back Together was to flip to the back cover and read the blurb. This is what I found…

“I have a fantastic wardrobe, brilliant friends, massive credit card debt – all the usual stuff. I don’t think about it at all. I’m too busy being normal.”

Mmm, normal. I was hooked. No such thing, is there? I knew I was in for a good story, and Alice had me fascinated…

“Alice is the friend you wish you had. The girl who makes a party more fun, pulls a funny face to make you feel better, drinks wine out of a mug and makes you laugh while you’re crying over an ex. Alice is totally happy, everything is amazing and there is nothing at all to worry about…except, well…”

It became clear fairly early on in this read that not everything was sunshine in Alice’s world. Her inner thoughts and outer life were hopelessly at odds, and despite trying incredibly hard to appear in control, at this stage in her life she seems to be barely coping.

On the face of it Putting Alice Back Together might seem to be straightforward chick lit, and in some ways it is – it’s very character driven, it’s pretty reliant on (very clever) dialogue and includes a level of detail that would have driven my husband a bit batty. But, I must emphasis that this novel is quite bit more than ‘just’ chick lit. It’s quite dark, it’s challenging (Alice’s character is at times very hard to like) and it’s intent is wonderfully honourable.

Carol’s story really is largely about being honest, true to yourself, so to speak. It’s about cutting yourself some slack and living a good life by challenging yourself to be who you really are, and in turn to do what you really want to do. This is a sentiment I can most definetly relate to. Although I did at times find Alice difficult to identify with, by the end of the book I found I was very endeared to her. Her journey was a difficult one, but she rose to the challenge – enjoyable to see as a reader, and I felt very good for her as the story concluded.

I read this book in a weekend, and had trouble putting it down. In someways it was a bit like good TV (I was reminded a bit of Offspring) and it was equally entertaining. Great holiday reading maybe?

Carol was kind enough to let me quiz her on her book and on how she fits writing into her busy family life:

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How would you describe “Putting Alice Back Together”? Have you found it difficult to categorise?
I do find it difficult to categorise Putting Alice Back Together. I think it is a gritty read, but there are funny parts too.  Dark chick lit maybe?

I was, when I started, expecting something a bit closer to simple entertainment, some romance perhaps, but I got so much more than this from your novel. What do you hope people will get out of your book?
I hope that the reader feels they have been on the journey with Alice – through both the good and bad parts of her life and that they feel proud of her as she emerges. I would love it if it made someone look at where they might be holding themselves back.

Alice as a character is not always likeable. Perhaps justifiably, she judges people harshly and herself most harshly of all. Was it difficult to write a character like Alice?
Alice was very hard to write at times – my friend would read it and say “she can’t say that”, but then she fell in love with Alice too. As you say, Alice was so judgmental and at times downright rude that it held me back. However, in her defense, Alice rarely voiced her horrible thoughts. There is so much prejudice around and I wanted Alice to be a real person, not necessarily a perfect one. I really wanted to see her change.

I know that you’re a busy, writing, working Mum. What are your tips    for maintaining a balance between work and family?
I’m still struggling with that balance!

I think losing the guilt is the main thing. It is so easy to burn out trying to get everything done and then leave nothing in the tank for yourself, yet it is important to pursue your own interests, friendships and goals – the same way we would want our children to.

What do you most like to read? How do you fit reading into your busy days?
I read anything and everything. I love romance, contemporary fiction, biographies, fashion, cooking….. I have the biggest TBR pile in the world. I am loving Marian Keyes Saved By Cake and am making her Lavender and White Chocolate Cheesecake this weekend and I have The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh waiting for me this evening. I always have a ‘real’ book on the go at home and I have my E-Reader in my bag for unexpected times when a reading opportunity arises.

Finally, what’s next for Carol Marinelli?
Well, I am working on revisions at the moment. It’s linked to Putting Alice Back Together, but it’s probably not the characters people will be expecting. Oh, and my friend is reading it and shaking her head and saying “She can’t do that.”

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You can find out more about the book, the author, and about how to get hold of a copy here…

This book is very entertaining, without being frivolous. I’d recommend it, and I’d trust you’ll get a few good messages out of it, as well as it being a great reading break from the daily grind.

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