A Gift from Woolworths by Elaine Everest — New Review (Blog Tour)

A Gift From Woolworths

I’ve never been part of a blog tour before, and I thought it would make me feel like a Legitimate Blogger (TM), so I jumped at the chance to review A Gift from Woolworths. I haven’t read any of Elaine Everest’s previous books in this series, but I love Call the Midwife, and I thought this might be similar. I was, sadly, disappointed. The emotional moments that work in A Gift from Woolworths are similar in tone to what I love about Call the Midwife — the main characters helping one another out, healing rifts between them, or standing up for their right to do their work — but there are just as many moments that didn’t land for me. In some cases, this may be because I had trouble keeping the characters and their relationships straight (something I imagine readers with the four previous books under their belts would manage better), but even characters introduced for the first time in this novel managed to leave me cold.

For a while she’d felt as though her dream had been snatched away from her, but now she could almost smell the roses round the door and see the years ahead with her making a home for her husband, Alan Gilbert, manager of a Woolworths store.

A Gift from Woolworths, Elaine Everest

What I most enjoyed about A Gift from Woolworths was the exploration of the gender dynamics, particularly around women working. It was honestly just sad to see the lengths the female characters would go to in order to ensure their male friends and partners wouldn’t feel jealous of their success. While this was almost certainly accurate to the period, I did struggle to sympathise with some of the men as a result.

She’d found it best to get home from work and remove her office clothes, wash off the make-up and turn back into a wife and mother before he came home from the workshop.

A Gift from Woolworths, Elaine Everest

Elaine Everest managed moments of genuine humour, and at least one thrill late in the story. I think my lack of investment in the characters really hindered my enjoyment, especially as this was written to be a ‘goodbye’ to an established group of friends. 300 pages into the book, I still wasn’t sure which one was Sarah. I’d recommend A Gift from Woolworths to people who’ve already read the first four books in this series, though as I haven’t read them, I can’t really compare how this measures up. Don’t take my word for it, I really recommend you check out a few of the other stops on this blog tour! I particularly recommend the review by GingerBookGeek, who had read the earlier novels.

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Next, I’ll be reading Bend Sinister by Vladimir Nabokov.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

The Lost Letters of William Woolf by Helen Cullen — new review

Reading the blurb on the back of The Lost Letters of William Woolf, I expected an interesting story about tracing the origins and intended recipients of the letters that get lost in the post. To be absolutely fair to Helen Cullen, what little there was of that was great! The girl who found some fossilised whale vomit and tried to send it to Royal Geological Society was a delight, and William reuniting a firefighter’s letter with the boy he rescued from a burning building was the highlight of the book. Sadly, none of that was the focus of the story.

When William discovers letters addressed simply to ‘My Great Love’ his work takes on new meaning. Written by a woman to a soulmate she hasn’t met yet, the missives stir William in ways he didn’t know were possible, and soon he begins to wonder: Could he be her great love?

The Lost Letters of William Woolf, Helen Cullen

It’s clear from the book’s cover that there’s going to be a romantic element to The Lost Letters of William Woolf. What absolutely isn’t made clear is that our protagonist, William, is already married. It was this key fact that made the book so different from what I expected. Instead of a whimsical, romantic epistolary novel, I got the story of a marriage in trouble. Worse still, I honestly didn’t like either member of the married couple. Nor was it at all clear whether I was supposed to root for William and Clare to get back together, or for William to find Winter, the writer of the letters. I spent a lot of time hoping that Winter was an elderly woman, because William assumes she is his age on absolutely no evidence, and I wanted to see him get his comeuppance.

“If she wasn’t monitoring his behaviour constantly, would he try harder without the scrutiny, or give up the ghost altogether?”

The Lost Letters of William Woolf, Helen Cullen

I struggle to imagine any ending to this book that could have satisfied me, because I found both William and Clare unsympathetic, and Winter is offstage for so much of the novel that it’s hard to get invested in her. The ending as written isn’t so much disappointing, then, as it just seems rushed. Suddenly it’s ‘a year and a day later’ and all the loose ends are tied up, with no indication of how this happened. There’s a little character development for Clare through the novel, but William’s arc seems confusing and ill thought-out.

Next, I’ll be reading A Gift from Woolworths by Elaine Everest.

Rating: 1 out of 5.