Friday 7 October 2016

Reviewed: Thursdays in the Park by Hilary Boyd

TITLE: Thursdays in the Park
AUTHOR: Hilary Boyd

PUBLICATION DATE: October 6, 2016

Amazon - Goodreads

Jeanie has been married for thirty years, but her husband George has become so cold and distant she may as well be alone. Surely, at just sixty, a loveless marriage can't be the only thing left on the horizon? Then, one Thursday in autumn, Jeanie meets Ray in the park, and a chance meeting blossoms into a friendship.

They talk, laugh, share hopes and secrets and heartbreaks.

They offer each other a second chance at life and love.

But will they have the courage to take it?

I own almost all of Hilary Boyd’s books but the newly reissued Thursdays in the Park is the first one I have read. The story inside is just as appealing as its beautiful new cover, and I spent a lovely afternoon reading this book with no intention of putting it down until I’d reached the end.

Jeanie and George have been married for thirty years, but George is hiding something. It’s the reason they haven’t slept in the same bed for a decade, but Jeanie has given up trying to work out why that is. The highlight of her week is spending time with her granddaughter Ellie. Every Thursday, they head to the park. And this is where Jeanie meets Ray…

I think it’s apparent almost right away that George is no good for Jeanie, at least not anymore, whereas Ray is kind, thoughtful, fun and exactly what Jeanie needs after over a decade of settling for a life which if she was honest, doesn’t do a lot for her. I really enjoyed this theme to the book. Jeanie, at sixty, is torn between these new feelings she has for Ray and her marriage to George, but throughout all the years before meeting Ray, she hasn’t really entertained the thought of leaving her husband and it is realistically put across that other people, her friends and family, would also think it strange for a woman of ‘her age’ to leave George. A new romantic chapter in her life seems an alien concept, but Jeanie is sixty, not dead, so why shouldn’t she hope for something more?

Thursdays in the Park is a gentle, romantic and immensely warm novel. The story is sweet but also very engaging and it was easy to become wrapped up in the newfound romance between Jeanie and Ray. I loved both characters. Jeanie was made easy to care for. I didn’t find it too surprising that she hadn’t demanded more answers from George over the years, as she seemed to want to avoid an argument at all costs. I could also understand how she was still with him, as it was not really the done thing to leave a marriage when you’re that age. However, mostly I wanted her to follow her heart, not her head, and bring an end to her marriage to George if she found that really, she wanted Ray instead…

There’s that big stereotypical belief that older people desire companionship, not romance, but I think why should anyone settle for second best when something better is right in front of them? And why can’t somebody have both the romance and the companionship? Jeanie’s character represents that people in their sixties can fall in love again. They may be judged for that, but throughout the course of the book I was rooting for Jeanie to finally be free from George and to let herself fall for somebody else.

Ray’s character was lovely, but also interesting. I was fascinated by the story of his previous relationship and loved how it was written. How, again, something frowned upon by many people is not always as immoral as it may seem. I may be in my twenties but I found both Jeanie and Ray wonderful characters to read about, and credit to the author’s style of writing which drew me in to the story straight away.

There were a couple of parts to this story that I didn’t like quite so much – like every time Ellie’s parents Chanty and Alex were involved. I couldn’t warm to them at all and I didn’t particularly enjoy reading about them, not because I didn’t like them, more because they were quite infuriating. Whereas George, who I also didn’t like, was still an interesting character to read about and also of course an integral part of the story. I also found that Jeanie and Ray’s romantic meets were my favourite part to the book and so probably preferred the beginning and middle of the book more than the back and forth ending.

However, overall I found Thursdays in the Park to be a touching and believable story about falling in love. The struggles in the romance are relatable for people of almost any age, as is the theme of living the life you want rather than the life society expects of you. This was an extremely heart-warming and entertaining novel and has me looking forward to tucking into some of the author’s other books in the near future.

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