I sometimes wonder if books are like bananas, after a certain time they go off and are sold at bargain-basement prices. This book was a clearance – 50p. That’s around the price you pay for books in charity shops. I got it for nothing. And no, I didn’t steal it. I just read it before the person was putting it into the charity shop dumped it.
I read a good idea today about books you dislike, rather than giving it the one-star treatment and writing a terrible review, just drop it off at a charity shop.
Not that I think Lisa Jewell’s book is terrible. ‘Life affirming and uplifting…perfect’ and five stars from the magazine heat is on the cover. Lisa Jewell has one of those names I imagine to be a pseudonym, something upbeat that dazzles. Her stories have sold in hundreds of thousands.
The truth about melody browne is perfect in its own way. No real sex. No real violence. Melody’s mother suffered from post-natal depression and after the baby died she split up from husband. This has a strong semblance of what happens in the real world, but isn’t really a story.
The king dies is a story, waffling creative writing students are told, but there’s a punchline. The queen dies of grief is also a story, but the plot thickens the broth. What happens next springs from emotional engagement?
Melody Browne had a council house in Covent Garden (I know, miraculous enough in itself to inspire a how-dunnit) and she has a seventeen-year-old son, Edward James Browne. He’s just turning eighteen, keys to the house and all that jazz. Melody had her son when she was fifteen. But she’s doing alright, working as a dinner lady in the school he attends. There’s no right-wing hate mob hunting her down and calling her a scrounger, telling her to get a job—even though she’s got a job. Sorry, I tend to go on these rants.
OK. That’s the equilibrium. It’s tipped when two things happen. A stranger approaches her when she’s on a bus and tells her she’s got perfect upper arms. He really fancies her and gets her number. That’s pretty weird, but we’ll flip that one. In Jewell’s world he’s a perfect gentleman, with some baggage, enough to make him believable because he’s aware of his own inner irony. She agrees to go on a date with Mr just-about perfect to a Derren Brown show. Although the fabulist isn’t called that, probably for legal reason, but something else. Melody Browne is hypnotised and shares a stage with Derren Brown (no relation), but when she comes to, she has strange memories of her childhood. She can no longer remember what happened to her before her ninth birthday and what she can remember doesn’t make sense. The kind of difficulties that would have an American President wondering if he’ll be re-elected. But it’s not real life. Just fabulist.
This is the jumping off point for a before and after. Melody Browne’s existence now becomes a whodunnit. What happened to the little girl before she became pregnant? Even before that and why can’t she remember?
Chapters are arranged in a now and then format. Easy to read and follow format. Chapter 3, for example, takes the reader back to 1976.
When Melody Browne was three years old, she Melody Ribbensdale and she lived in a big red house right in the middle of London. At least, that’s how her three-year-old consciousness saw it. She lived, in fact, in one corner of a red mansion squatted unprepossessingly on a busy juncture in Lambeth, south London.
Jump forward, Melody Brown is 33, she still in London. Maths was never my suit, but 1976 and 30 = 1996. It’s 1996. Melody Brown needs to figure out the truth about her past. Then her future will open like a flower. I’m not good at naming flowers or maths. Fling in the type of flower that opens.
That’s it. You get it. The narrator will follow her on her journey. The king is dead. Long live the queen. I got it. Read on.