In this fictitious diary, newly divorced Graham Hope gives himself six months to relaunch his life after divorce. His ex-wife’s accusation that he is “Adrian Mole and Bridget Jones’s lovechild” suggests the author’s intention for the book.
We follow Graham’s progress from living uncomfortably with his parents with occasional access to his sons, to moving into a rented flat and acquiring a new girlfriend, Amy. Graham gets a wake-up call when Amy is seriously injured in a car accident, causing him to emerge at the end of his six month plan a better and more self-aware adult with a promising new relationship ahead.
The novel explores predictable themes: the challenge of sharing childcare between divorced parents, jealousy and resentment of the ex-partner, a lack of confidence in moving on, the dubious comfort offered by his mates. The characters, their situations and their actions were realistic, and I particularly liked the portrayal of Graham’s relationship with his sons. However, the structure felt a little hurried, forced by the neatness of the timescale in the book’s title, though the ending was satisfying.
It took me a while to warm to and respect Graham. At first he seemed irritatingly immature and petulant, particularly in his attitude to his hated job. It’s never clear what this job involves, other than paying him a decent wage. More effort and detail in this area would have added depth to the story. The way he left his post, with a boat-burning hate-filled email to all his colleagues, didn’t ring true for me: I don’t think a grown-up who needs a reference would behave that way.
I am familiar with the area in which the novel is set, and being a Londoner could grasp all the colloquialisms and brand references. Non-British readers may either struggle with these or find them part of the charm.
The book was on the whole well crafted, but for my taste, it was a bit obvious and pedestrian, and lacked the spark to lift it into the realms of Bridget Jones and Adrian Mole. Only when it strayed into more ambitious territory, such as in the hospital scenes, did it really begin to shine for me.
This book would appeal to anyone who loves English humour, British settings, or divorce sagas described from the man’s point of view.