A little while ago Kathryn Simmonds contacted me asking if I’d consider reviewing her novel. It’s published by Seren, a small publisher and I always have a soft spot for them, and it seemed interesting so I agreed to have a look at it. It was the Greenham Common theme that hooked me. I’ve never come across a novel set at the women-only peace camp whose aim was to prevent the storage of American cruise missiles on British soil. For several years it provided fodder for the tabloids who outdid themselves, and each other, in an ecstasy of outrage. Kathryn Simmonds’ novel alternates between the present and those strange months in 1982 when a group of disparate women came together and tried to save the world.
Tessa runs a tiny environmental charity. She spends her spare time caught up in all manner of right on causes seemingly on a one-woman campaign to save the planet with little time or attention left over for her husband, Pete. Best friend Maggie, with Pete’s connivance, has managed to get her on Make You Over, a reality TV programme which bears more than a passing resemblance to What Not to Wear – remember Trinny and Susannah? Tessa is appalled – I’d have murdered H if he’d sprung that one on me – but is persuaded that it would help publicise her many causes. She’s more than a little irked by Pete’s reaction to the newly made over her, high heels and all. Memories of Greenham are triggered when one of her campmates gets in touch and over the course of the novel we learn why Tessa has taken the world upon her shoulders.
Simmonds frames the central Greenham section of the book with alternating present day and 1980s narratives. There’s plenty of gentle humour – fun poked at the more outlandish sections of the Greenham women and a nice parallel drawn with the Feel Good festival at the end where well-heeled young people with a conscience enjoy guilt-free pleasures while helping to raise money. Simmonds slips in a few political points along the way without disturbing her smooth flowing narrative. No literary fireworks but it’s not that kind of book, more of an entertaining easy read with an absorbing story which manages to address a few issues without smacking you round the head with them.
This is the second novel I’ve looked at for an author – thankfully I enjoyed both. I’ve another waiting to be reviewed but I think that’s it for this blogger. It’s too nerve-wracking. If publishers send me books that either don’t appeal or I don’t enjoy, I feel no obligation to review them: that’s the deal. If an author sends me a book, it’s an entirely different kettle of fish: that’s personal.