Tuesday 12 July 2016

Reviewed: A Library of Lemons by Jo Cotterill

TITLE: A Library of Lemons
AUTHOR: Jo Cotterill
PUBLISHER: Piccadilly Press


Amazon - Goodreads

Calypso's mum died a few years ago and her emotionally incompetent Dad can't, or won't, talk about Mum at all. Instead he throws himself into writing his book A History of the Lemon. Meanwhile the house is dusty, there's never any food in the fridge, and Calypso retreats into her own world of books and fiction.

When a new girl, Mae, arrives at school, the girls' shared love of reading and writing stories draws them together. Mae's friendship and her lively and chaotic home - where people argue and hug each other - make Calypso feel more normal than she has for a long time. But when Calypso finally plucks up the courage to invite Mae over to her own house, the girls discover the truth about her dad and his magnum opus - and Calypso's happiness starts to unravel.

A Library of Lemons is a heartfelt and magical story about the power of books and friendship. I completely lost myself in the pages of this warm and engaging book and my heart went out to Calypso and the story she was telling.

At ten years old, Calypso has already spent a few years of her life without her mum, who died of cancer, and now living alone with her dad, she is being taught all about inner strength and forces herself to keep her emotions tucked away whilst seeking comfort in books. I could identify with Calypso on so many levels and really believed in her character and how as much as she loved reading for the excitement and intrigue of every story, it was also something her mum had loved to do too and so every time she picked up a book, she felt connected with her mum.

But right from the start of this book, even though you can see Calypso has grown comfortable in her own company, I was rooting for her to build up a friendship with Mae, the new girl at school, so she didn’t have to live through her grief alone as her dad took to holding in his feelings, wrapped up in writing his own book, A History of the Lemon.

A Library of Lemons is thoroughly heart-warming and beautifully told. It was lovely and satisfying to see Calypso’s character grow through the strength of friendship and I really enjoyed seeing her come out of her shell and smile and laugh and find that bit of happiness she’d been missing. What I also loved about this book was how both Calypso and Mae always stayed true to themselves. Rather than their friendship meaning they left the books behind, they bonded over their shared love of reading and all the little literary references, all the authors and titles mentioned throughout the story, all of the bad reviews/publishing rejections had me nodding and smiling and channelling my inner book geek.

Jo Cotterill’s writing is very profound and beneath the emotional surface of this inspired novel are many layers of hopefulness and glimmers of positivity. Mae and Calypso bond over their shared creativity and imagination and their love of writing stories together is rewarding and entertaining to read. They were both interesting and engaging characters and their happiness and excitement was infectious, really lifting the mood of the story so it is never overwhelmingly sad – simply optimistic.

Through Calypso’s newfound friendship, we get to see her character really begin to learn about life as she spends more and more time with Mae. Calypso is both brave and clever and picks up on so much from her new friend such as different feelings and emotions – how it’s normal to show them – as well as how people interact as a family. Can her and her dad count as a family when there’s only two of them? It was a tender and charming aspect of the story watching Mae try and work this one out. What a delightful little novel.

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