Saturday, 15 August 2015

Reviewed: With a Friend Like You by Fanny Blake







With a Friend Like You was published in paperback by Orion on August 13, 2015.


Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy to review.



With a Friend Like You is an engaging tale of family and friendship – and how it can all fall apart in an instant. Beth and Megan are best friends. They’re extremely close to each other, always there to confide in or to put a smile on the other’s face, always there to help each other through daily life. They both have very different personalities and outlooks on life. Beth is a lawyer – strict, professional and aware of everything she wants in life for herself and her family. Married to Jon and with two daughters in Ella and Amy, she’s fairly content with the way their lives are working out. Megan, who was my favourite of the two, is a school teacher, married and with two children in Hannah and Jake. In Megan’s home, it seems quite obvious that there’s a much more carefree atmosphere. I had the feeling Megan and her husband Pete could cope with a bit of upheaval a little easier and I think that’s why I connected with them both more because they were calmer and less controlling than Beth appeared to be.

Early on, we see that Beth relies on Megan’s friendship an awful lot, taking comfort out of the knowledge that Megan is only a phone call away. Megan appreciates their friendship too but I think Beth probably needed the support a bit more. Fanny Blake has really quite excellently broken down the inner workings of family and friendship, drilling into what makes them work and all the little strands that once damaged, may no longer be able to be repaired. What I loved about this book was that it’s not simply the story of a feud between two women who were once friends. The ties between their two families were more than just the friendship between Beth and Megan – they were all friends. Husbands Jon and Pete were best mates and had been for the longest time – always there for the banter and the chats about footy and there was a real bond between them. Amy and Hannah were best friends, spending those rebellious years together as they avoid studying as best they can. Ella and Jake were also close friends too as really, both families appeared to be blended into one. Their individual friendships were all well-drawn and believable but they were all so close that you kind of knew that one bit of unexpected news could leave a lasting impact on them all. So when Ella admits that she is pregnant, all hell breaks loose…

The characters in this book were fantastically written. Each one felt so honest and realistic that it made them really easy to picture. Two families, not perfect, each with secrets and hidden things going on behind closed doors. Fanny really seems to have knowledge of each generation of a family and their thought processes, feelings and motives in life. I really liked how it wasn’t black and white with any of the characters – they weren’t all obviously likeable or otherwise. Instead, they each had traits that you can relate to and identify with, and for me it wasn’t ever as simple as making my mind up on whether I liked them or not, because they were always changing my mind. That this book is set around Beth and Megan and yet I felt like I knew each member of their families just as well is credit to how strongly Fanny developed her characters and made each of them three-dimensional, flawed and genuine.

Beth was the character I most changed my mind on. I could see how much she cared for her family but I think she liked the control too much, as when she lost control, everything seemed to fall to pieces in her life. She seemed to quite often relate everything back to her, as in if something happened which really wasn’t that much to do with her, she’d make it about herself and think about how it would impact her first. At times that felt like a bit of a harsh judgment, because she had those moments where her love shone through and it appeared to become the most important thing in the world for Beth just for each member of her family to be ok. I think, like all good mothers, deep down that was the case for Beth but she sometimes struggled to show it. She had plans for her family, plans she thought they were all in agreement over but Ella’s pregnancy changes everything and she’s no idea how to cope with that, especially when she doesn’t even feel like she can turn to Megan.

There were times where I felt like I knew where this book was going and then others where it really surprised me. Secrets and twists are revealed which had me fascinated and trying to scramble together where I thought each character in this book would end up. I definitely wanted Megan and Beth to resolve their friendship although I did have mixed feelings about their feud throughout this book. At times I found the bitterness between them to be quite sad, that they would let something get in the way of such a long-term, rewarding friendship when all they really needed to do was sit down and talk to each other. Then again, I did find some of the snarky remarks, mostly on Beth’s part, to be an amusing aspect to this story as Beth’s attitude towards their former friendship got a little out of control.

With a Friend Like You really was all about an exploration of friendship and it also showed the contrast between controlling life and taking life how it comes, and how really when it comes down to it, neither work all that well. What I really loved here was how all the drama, the fights and the friendships are so easy to picture happening in real life. Like, I could look up from reading the book (not that I ever did choose to) and spot the likeness between one of the fictional characters and one of the people surrounding me at the time. I’m also not a great fan of books being wrapped up too neatly and so this one worked like a treat for me. With a Friend Like You was a great book – intriguing, true to life and well written from start to finish. It’s the first book I’ve read from this author but I’m now looking forward to reading more in the future.


A realistic and gripping exploration of a friendship gone wrong







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