“She was close to the edge, too close. A careless gust thrown up from the beach below might catch her, tip her off balance and send her staggering forward or sideways. Her feet might find a loose patch of chalk. She might slip and be carried towards the crumbling rim.”
Esther Armstrong is a bit of a mess, with her brother away from home, her parents guest house becoming more like a ghost house and her mum hiding the wine bottles at the bottom of the bin as if they don’t exist she is worried about the future. As the summer holidays start she is desperate to find something to distract her, then she finds the letters.
Hidden within the walls of her bedroom she discovers six letters, five from a solider to his sweetheart from the first world war and one, unopened, unsent letter addressed back to him. Esther soon becomes obsessed thinking about the pair, what happened to them and why that last letter remained unsent. Perhaps by unravelling the mystery of the sweethearts of a hundred years ago Esther might be able to make sense of her own life.
I was very excited about finally starting this book as I had heard a lot about how good Cathy Brett was at creating a world that sucks you in and illustrating that world to make it even more readable. Unfortunately I hadn’t read any of Cathy Brett’s stuff before Everything is Fine but I will searching out her back catalogue now that I had such a great time reading this one.
The story is good, there’s obviously something not right in Es’ home right form the start, her brother is playing up, her dad is moping around, there are no guests in the guest house and her mum has developed a drinking habit. I was unsure at first about what had created the mood and activities of the group but I quickly worked it out. The mood lightens when it is discovered that a filming company want to use the guest house as a location for their new movie and the town fills with movie stars, directors and producers. During all this madness Es discovers the letters and tries to separate the madness of the movie and what is going on with her family by concentrating on the letters. I understand why she did this, and especially liked the parallels between the letters and the movie, which was about the war.
We weren’t introduced to many characters in great depth and mainly the story focuses on Es, her best friend Molly, her younger brother Gull and a bruised boy who we don’t get to know very well until later on. The lead in the movie, Byron, is also focused on but is a complete tool, I never trust movie stars. Es was lovely and quite obviously messed up, I wanted her to confide in others but she just didn’t and it broke my heart… though I would have probably been exactly the same in her situation. Molly was a bit of a strange one but I think I liked her, I definitely felt sorry for her being known as ‘funbags’ though. Gull wound me up majorly in the first hundred pages or so but I think thats a part of him being a little brother and being a bit spoilt, he got better and by the end of the book I really did love him.
I think the story was a little predictable and I would have liked things to have been revealed a little earlier, to be perfectly honest that would have bugged me more if it wasn’t for the images throughout the book. I loved the images and thought they added so much to the story, the detail of them and the way a lot of them were similar yet different meant so much to me whilst reading. The way the text was situated on the page was fantastic too and I loved how the page layout reflected what was going on. I would have had a field day with this book had it come out during my stylistics module at uni!
Everything is Fine is possibly one of my hardest books to review this year because I loved so much of it yet had difficulty with others, the shocking reveal that wasn’t so shocking let it down for me quite a bit but yet I still loved it because of the characters and the illustrations. I want to shout from the rooftops about it and make everyone read it but that little thing is just there niggling at me. I think I am just being really pedantic though and think that most people will adore the book and especially its illustrations.
Everything is Fine (And Other Lies I Tell Myself) will be published on May 9th by Headline. My copy was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
For more info please visit: