Thursday 9 June 2016

Reviewed: Love, or Nearest Offer by Adele Geras

TITLE: Love, or Nearest Offer
AUTHOR: Adele Geras


Amazon - Goodreads

What if your estate agent could find you not just your perfect house, but your perfect job, your perfect partner... your perfect new life?

On paper, Iris Atkins is an estate agent, but she's not just good at finding suitable houses for her clients. In fact, she has a gift: Iris is able to see into their lives and understand exactly what is missing and what they need - and not just in bricks-and-mortar terms either.

Of course, concentrating so much on fixing other people's problems doesn't leave much time for examining your own. Over the course of one whirlwind year Iris discovers that while she may know what's best for everyone else, she doesn't necessarily know what's best for herself - and what she finds out could make her happier than she'd ever dreamed of.

Love, or Nearest Offer is a warm and engaging novel, a light and enjoyable read ideal for the summer. I loved the sound to this novel and the synopsis had me really looking forward to reading it. Once I began, I was engrossed almost straight away as despite the fairly slow, gentle pace, the storytelling really leads us nicely into the lives of these characters who all have the same goal – to find their perfect new home. Each of the house-hunting characters had their own story and I could really get a feel for each one of them without the book feeling repetitive or over-complicated. I also really enjoyed seeing their lives overlap one another and this all made for an extremely satisfying novel.

Iris Atkins is an estate agent, thoroughly invested in the lives of her clients and always intent on finding them their perfect home by taking in their needs and aspirations and persuading them not to settle for anything less than their dream. Iris is a really lovely character, a caring soul and as she is always trying to find the best for other people, in turn that made me always want what was best for her. Which is why each time I saw her ex Neil mentioned, I sped up my reading in the hope he would disappear quickly. I really couldn’t stand Neil, everything about him just made me cringe, and I really couldn’t understand what Iris had once seen in him, nor the reasons why her friends and mother made such a big fuss about him.

The beginning of the book quickly introduces us to Iris’ main clients: Aidan, Vina, Josie and Patrick. We get to read a fair bit from the perspective of Aidan, Vina and Josie but as their lives begin to interlink, it never really felt like four individual stories. Instead, they blended nicely into one.

Aidan, in his sixties, has never really come to terms to life without his wife Grace, who died from a terminal illness. His house is still very much how Grace chose it to be, his clothes and his choices are all still inspired by Grace, and though he doesn’t want to pretend Grace never existed, he does want to take more control over his own life, starting by finding a new place to live. Aidan is evidently lonely and I really felt for his character. It was easy to understand some of his feelings from his grief to his loneliness and I felt almost like I just wanted to protect him.

Vina is living in a house she feels far too big for her, since her husband walked out on her ten years ago and both her children are grown-up and living elsewhere. Geoff, her ex-husband, was another male character in this book along with Neil that I didn’t like. He was irritating at best, and Vina was far better without him. On a visit to Iris’ estate agents one day, Vina crashes into Aidan, and he’s very taken by her. They begin to exchange a few emails and I was really eager to see if anything would work out between them…

Josie is the character I probably connected with the least. I did like her, but I didn’t connect with her as much as I did everyone else. She has big plans for a new home with husband Will and their son Zak. Space and safety for another baby at least, and a dog. An ideal location for dog walking and entertainment for Zak. As for Will… Will wasn’t as set on Josie’s ideas and would much rather live centrally than in the country. I did feel Josie didn’t really ever listen to what Will wanted and their story was the one I was most unsure how it would all turn out at the end of the book.

Patrick is an artist and the only thing we really get to know about his wishes for a new place early on is that he needs walls… Though we don’t see as much of Patrick until later on in the novel, I loved getting to know his character.

Though Love, or Nearest Offer revolves around the lives of several characters, it works really well and the pacing and insight we’re given into each of the characters makes it simple to feel invested in their lives. Adele’s writing sharply observes her characters’ emotions and credibly covers some of the stresses, hesitations and disappointments of house-hunting. The ties between her characters felt natural and believable rather than contrived and though I thought I knew how things would figure out for them all, I was eager to see how everything would unfold. The writing style makes for a captivating, escapist novel – nothing challenging, but with an easy pace that lures you into the story, and characters you can’t help but care for.

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