A friend was reading this while she was on holiday and said that she enjoyed it, so I bought it.
This is the official blurb: William and Amy love their busy city life, but when Will collapses on his way into work he decides enough is enough and moves his family to the country.
Three months later, Amy is standing outside Helmshill Grange, a sullen monstrosity of a house, deep in the Yorkshire moors. Within days, Will has traded in the Audi for a Land Rover, and brought home chickens, goats, sheep, a serial-killer cat and a mad dog.
I really enjoyed the book in the beginning. To start with I felt very sorry for Amy who had a career and home and lifestyle she enjoyed very much in London, but gave it up so her husband could live his dream in the wilds of Yorkshire. Will, because he doesn’t know a thing about farming or what he is doing acquires a mix of damaged or rejected animals which of course he isn't strong enough to care for. The two kids weren’t best pleased about the move initially either, though they soon became enamoured with the animals and the freedom they could enjoy in the countryside. So it was quite a jolly romp full of fun and comical disasters with pleasant characters and the occasional twist and turn, surprises and shocks.
However then it began to go downhill. Amy made some stupid, irresponsible decisions which led to implausible, unrealistic situations - the whole thing was too unlikely and contrived and that irritated me. The antics of Hamish the dog didn’t amuse me as was intended - they incensed me - I just kept thinking any responsible owner would have taken it immediately to dog training sessions and seriously learnt how to control it. I can’t understand why the author would presume that pages about the distasteful behaviour and the chaos and damage incurred by an unruly and undisciplined dog would be found remotely entertaining.
Later, she moves this same huge, unmanageable dog and a semi feral cat which is a born hunter to a tiny flat in London which doesn’t allows pets. This was supposed to be humorous - but all I could think of was, ‘How did she think for a moment that she was going to get the dog out for a walk every day without being noticed and what about the cat - was it cooped in all the time because if she had let it roam free as it was accustomed to doing, it would have been killed on the road’. It was so irresponsible, improbable and impossible that it spoilt the story.
At one stage I nearly abandoned the book. It was when Guy, the very nice vet bought the family a hedgehog which had a broken leg. The daughter kept it loose in her bedroom where it supposedly followed her around, trotting along happily behind her everywhere she went. That just would not happen. For a start they poo and wee everywhere and it stinks to high heavens. Also they are terribly shy creatures. When I take care of autumn hoglets who are too tiny to survive outside in the winter, even though they associate me with food and I have them for months, they really prefer not to be handled at all or to have human contact they tend to scuttle off to hide. If Ms Matthews had done even minimal research into the behaviour of wild hedgehogs, she couldn’t have written such inaccurate rubbish. I know it’s a novel, but it lost credibility for me - it became twee and soppy.
However I persevered.There were bits I thoroughly enjoyed and enough of the feel good factor to keep me turning the pages. So I’m rather ambivalent about it. It could have been an excellent book - it was basically a good idea and had interesting characters, but it was ruined by too much absurd nonsense. I know it was meant to be light hearted, but it was just daft in places.
Carole Matthews is the Sunday Times bestselling author of twenty-seven novels, including several Top Ten bestsellers. She is published in more than thirty countries - so she’s a popular author but I don’t think I’ll read any more of her books.