The review below appeared in HEBDEN BRIDGE TIMES, January 2002
THE heroine of this enticing little tale (from a local first-time author) is forty-something Jess, who is yearning for love and companionship but finds the search for the right man every bit as frustrating as did her metropolitan younger sister Bridget Jones (its all right youre allowed to admit you enjoyed the film).
For me the comic and sometimes poignant episodes made me want to go on reading to the point of being late for work, or even neglecting to feed the neighbours cat.
Alongside a variety of memorable characters, some of whom you would run a mile from meeting on a bus let alone having them buttonhole you at the Berringden Brow Pop-in Shop (proceeds to the parish), youll find an abundance of often hilarious incidents that you half believe could have really happened to someone you know.
Through much of the story runs the lackluster romance (if you can call it that) with Frank the barn dance partner turned semi-reluctant lover whom Jess attempts to rescue from the clutches of an ageing mother, and major league allergies. On his first night under Jesss roof and in her bed, a turn of events which drives her teenage son on to the roof of the garden shed in protest she is obliged to talk him down clad only in her nightdress. A richly comic incident towards the end of the story is the Tea Dance in Leeds when the reader is willing our heroine to leave Frank to his fate among the afternoon over 60s and seek a new life.
But with whom? Well, theres the unrequited passion Jess has for Ben the Librarian at Berringden Brow branch library. In a series of encounters concerning the latest art house film on video release (not Titanic or Gladiator for our Jess), or the merest chance the library will have a copy of one of her poet/heartthrob Tom Paulins slim volumes, there are conclusions to be drawn about men who have a stimulating intellectual effect on women of a certain age.
At the back of the Berringden Brow narrative runs a parallel one concerning Jesss aborted teaching career in Botswana from which she has returned to bring up her son in the UK, and to look for stability in his life after her then partner Robin (older, selfish and unsuitable) has replaced her in his life with an African woman. The reader will find here a series of moving fragments which give a glimpse of a developing country experiencing the destructive force of the AIDS epidemic.
If you enjoyed our homegrown and much celebrated Joh Morrisons Milltown saga, theres a fair chance youll enjoy this, but in Jesss poignant recollections of an eventful upbringing and the death of her much loved mother, I was actually put in mind of another family tale - Kate Atkinsons Behind the Scenes at the Museum.
Copies of this book can be bought from The Bookcase, Hebden Bridge, or online from www.penninepens.co.uk
by Nigel Phillips