First off, this is a great holiday read, probably more so for women, though men could learn a thing or two. The story draws you in immediately, but as it flits from one decade to the next between chapters, you need to keep up, so it’s good to able to read it in long stretches.
Then when you’re home from the Summer hols beach read, it will make for great Book Club fodder, for just as Marcia Cross said about the 'Desperate Housewives' of the eponymous series – every woman identified with a little bit of each of them. Thus it is here, as we accompany Hannah, Lissa and Cate on their journey.
When we meet them first in 2004, the three pals are living the life, in a Victorian house at the edge of London Fields. They work hard, go to the theatre, go to galleries and the gigs of friends. They worry about things like climate change, but not nuclear war or interest rates. None of the 29-year old Millennials has children, as Hope's narrative informs us: 'In any other generation in the history of humankind this fact would be remarkable. It is hardly remarked upon at all.’
That was something that struck me forcibly, just how unsettled the girls were at the age of 29/30 (discuss.) Fast forward six years and it’s a very different story, Cate is a new Mum and struggling, Hannah is trying to become a Mum and struggling and Lissa is still drifting - and she’s struggling too, but in a different way.
The expectation of the title pervades, but whose expectation? Lissa’s Mother, Sarah, an artist and a veteran of Greenham Common, chides her: ‘Your generation, honestly, you baffle me, you really do’. ‘And why is that?’ asks Lissa. ‘Well, you’ve had everything. The fruits of our labour. The fruits of our activism. Good God, we got out there and changed the world for you. For our daughters. And what have you done with it?’
Cate is feeling the pressure, too. Talking about a former friend she says: ‘I’m not sure she’d approve of what I’ve become.' ‘Why what have you become?’ ‘Less’ she replies.
Yet as the years roll by and life intervenes, the girls muddle through to find themselves eventually and when we meet them for the final time, they are now in their forties. They worry more, but they are grateful too for what they have and what they have achieved. Most importantly, their friendship has survived (if only just). They have survived rows, deception and betrayal, but survived nonetheless where other relationships have floundered. ‘You must keep hold of your friendships,’ Sarah cautions. ‘The women, they’re the only thing that will save you in the end’.
You will laugh at, and with these women, and maybe even shed the odd tear, but they make for good holiday companions.