Friday, 21 August 2015

Reviewed: Appleby Farm by Cathy Bramley







Appleby Farm was published by Corgi (Transworld) on August 13, 2015.


Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book to review.



I read and adored Cathy Bramley’s serialised novel Ivy Lane last year and then I read it all once again when it came out as one beautiful paperback back in February this year. There’s just something about having it all in one book, not having to wish your days away until the next instalment is due out and so, I forced myself to wait for Appleby Farm to come out in paperback too. If I thought things couldn’t get any better after Ivy Lane (which I did), I was proved so wrong with Appleby Farm. This was warm, inviting, comforting reading at its very best. Every time I read a book by this author, it feels like the most effortless thing in the world. The writing flows easily, the characters develop naturally, the storytelling is interesting and beautifully told. I don’t think Cathy’s writing could get any more perfect if she tried.

Appleby Farm is about Freya, a character we met briefly towards the end of Ivy Lane (and I have to mention how much I loved just the few little reintroductions of some loveable Ivy Lane characters at the beginning of this book). Freya is content working in a cafĂ© just by Ivy Lane allotments, which is the place she spends a lot of her free time helping out her new boyfriend Charlie. They get along well and they’re happy enough in their relationship but Freya’s not so sure he’s that serious about them. He’s reluctant for her to meet his son which means that any time he spends with his son leaves Freya on her own. When she gets a surprise phone call saying there’s been an accident and she’s needed back home to help out for a few days, Freya barely thinks twice and finds herself back at Appleby Farm, a place very close to her heart.

The moment when Freya reached Appleby Farm was the moment when I wondered, why did she ever leave? She seemed so happy there in an instant, so at home and like she’d found her place in the world again. Freya is probably one of the most genuine, likeable characters I have ever come across. She was truly caring and considerate, a heart of gold, putting other people first like it’s the most natural thing in the world, working hard to make everybody else happy. Wanting the best for everybody around her but also willing to help to try and get them that ‘best’. I rooted for Freya from page one (well, actually from the end of Ivy Lane) and I think just connecting with and caring for a character that easily made the book so simple to love. Appleby Farm really brings out the best side of Freya, especially when she discovers that it’s in serious financial trouble and needs her help to save it. Freya’s so productive, she was always working on the next thing she could do to help and I loved that side to her when she’s full of strength and determination, willing to try anything to help the place and people she cares so much about.

The setting of this book was described beautifully, from the picturesque location to the friendly kind of vibe it was letting off, not to mention the cast of animal characters there to steal your heart! It was like a warm and cosy countryside holiday within a book – a lovely place to escape to – and it’s also not the only place we get to discover as Cathy moves the story a bit further afield at times too. Wherever this book is taking place, I always felt right at home.

Another thing I loved about Appleby Farm, and really I could be here all day, was the wonderful set of characters – those so easy to love and those we just love to hate – each delivered with style and substance and each fascinating, built up well and as much a developed figure in the story as our lovely protagonist, Freya. I adored most of Freya’s family and the friends she makes. There’s such spirit and generosity between them all and the wit and charm of this story comes partly through their dialogue, which is really uplifting and satisfying to read. I like how Cathy chooses to write about ordinary people because that way you can find so many traits you can relate to, and see yourself in a character. Going back to Freya, she was a character that could inspire you to stand up and take charge of your own life, rather than sitting back and letting things get out of hand. Couldn’t we all do with that fire, that enthusiasm and always-working imagination Freya has? She really did make me feel lazy! But anyway, back to the characters I loved. There’s Freya’s aunt and uncle, her childhood friend Harry, Tilly (who makes a little comeback from Ivy Lane… yay!), Lizzie… The sense of friendship in this little community Freya becomes a part of was so heart-warming. I loved how there was much more than a romance to this story – although I must admit to being blissfully happy with the romantic element to this story too. Cathy always creates characters you want to be real, characters you want to be there sipping tea with, sharing jokes and dreams and having a good time with.

Appleby Farm is a really engaging read, slipping with ease from each individual part to the next. Of course, you can put this book down anytime you choose and fit right back into the story when you pick it up again but really, who ever wants to put down one of Cathy’s novels? There’s real warming, homely qualities within Cathy’s writing that make her books, rather than highly thought-provoking stories, cosy, welcoming and magical. All you need to do is sit back and enjoy some delightful storytelling – meet the loveable group of characters and fall in love with the location. Just you try and read a Cathy Bramley book without a smile on your face… it’s impossible.


A joy to read (even more so than Ivy Lane!)





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