Happily Ever After

For my very first Be My Guest I’m thrilled to introduce, for your reading pleasure, Fiona of My Mummy Daze with a fab review of some insightful chick lit. Thanks Fiona…

Happily Ever After? by  Benison Anne O’Reilly
Around about the time that Will and Kate tied the knot in their beautifully, elaborate fairy tale wedding, I found myself wondering whether their romance and marriage would have the same fairy tale ending.

Would they live out a real life ‘happily ever after’?

My inner child reassured me that of course they would – they are a Prince and Princess afterall.

I spent my childhood years hearing this fairytale ending reinforced to me via Disney movie after Disney movie. As a consequence, from a young age I expected hoped for a white wedding and a fanciful happily ever after, complete with my own handsome prince.

I certainly got the white wedding (well, I think it was ivory to be precise) and I married my prince before jetting off into the sunset for a tropical honeymoon. And then we lived happily ever after. Right?

I think we’ve all lived long enough to know that marriage and life as a ‘grown-up’ isn’t that simple. There’s ups and downs and triumphs and hurdles, with lots of mediocre in between.

I’m far from unhappy in my marriage, but I’ve learned very quickly that it’s not always smooth sailing. For as quickly as we set sail in good weather, a storm appears on the horizon. But, thankfully the rough seas don’t last long, and the strong winds and our sturdy bow actually give us the strength to power through to blue skies.

So it was reassuring when I came across Benison Anne O’Reilly’s novel, ‘Happily Ever After?’.

If you’re a fan of chick lit by the likes of Cathy Kelly then I think you’ll love this book too. It’s particularly enjoyable if you like following female characters that are real and relate-able, despite being at times flawed.

Reading Happily Ever After? was like following the sagas you hear at the hairdressers or beauty salon – not too far-fetched and happened to ‘a friend of a friend of mine’. It was refreshing to read about characters that I could relate to, and without a plot that mirrored more fantasy than reality.

I really couldn’t put the book down. The kids probably watched a little (OK, a lot) too much TV that week!

As Ellie, the would-be princess, strives for a happily ever after of her own, she soon realises that married life is in no way the fairytale she once thought it might be. Throughout the novel she journeys us through her challenges and realities as a wife, working mother, daughter (and let’s not forget daughter-in-law).

Benison has expertly penned this novel with amazing realism. I had to check if it was an autobiography, as her descriptions of Ellie’s experiences and feelings seemed so truthful, accurate and real. I’m a huge fan!

An enticement…
When Isabel was about five months old mum called me one day to say she was coming over for a visit.

She made some tea and sat down across the kitchen table from me. Then, jiggling Isabel on her knee, she announced, ‘I have some news for you. I’ve handed in my resignation at work. I’m taking early retirement.’

‘Oh…but I thought you were planning to stay on for a couple of years so you could redo the bathroom.’

‘I can do without a new bathroom I’ve decided. What I can’t do without is a happy daughter. I’ve been watching you slowly sink these past few months, especially with Tony away – I’m still angry with him about that, I don’t care if it was a good opportunity. Anyway, I think it would be best if you went back to work and I will look after Isabel for you.’

‘Mum, I can’t ask you to do that.’

‘You didn’t ask, I volunteered.’

‘But then I might not bond with her.’

‘Oh rubbish. It’s not like she’d be sitting in a child care centre for hours on end, Eleanor. Just think – her grandmother will be looking after her. I’m pretty experienced at this caper. So what do you think?’

I took a gulp of milky tea as tears of relief dripped down my face. I had kept this guilty secret to myself for months, too scared to acknowledge the truth. My little daughter had been so longed for that it had seemed disloyal to admit that I hated my life. And how could I separate the profound love I had for this baby from my feelings of utter incompetence as a mother? ‘The authorities’ had unwittingly given me the responsibility for this tiny, deeply precious, life but I barely felt capable of looking after myself. Now finally the truth had been acknowledged: I was sinking. I didn’t have to pretend anymore. Who else but my mother could have sensed this?

‘No-one told me it would be like this Mum.’

‘No, no-one ever does, sweetheart. It’s a conspiracy to ensure the survival of the species. Having said that, Isabel is more demanding than most – but gorgeous aren’t you darling?’ she said, giving Issy a quick cuddle and smile to let her know there were no hard feelings. ‘Anyway, would you?’

I nodded. Now the tears flowed in earnest and Isabel was required to squish over so I could get a cuddle as well. I thought of all the times over the years when I complained about my mum being too bossy or too loud or too opinionated or even on occasion downright embarrassing, but I was reminded that day that she is also the nicest, kindest mum in the whole world.

Fiona’s book review originally appeared here.


My Mummy Daze

Fiona’s blog My Mummy Daze, is a wonderfully fun and honest blog which I’d love you all to visit. Fiona’s words are insightful, humourous, helpful and entertaining.

Thanks again Fiona for joining in with Be My Guest August.

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