3 out of 4 stars
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High Hopes by Sue Lilley has a fascinating and intriguing premise: a middle-aged woman secretly had a baby to her best friend as a student, gave her up for adoption, and is now dealing with the consequences of that. The web of secrets is highly entertaining and gripping. I read this in one day, which is rare for me; I had to know how it ended and how all of the drama would be resolved.
The story follows Grace, who is almost forty and divorced from Alexander, although they are still romantically involved. If I'm honest, Grace was the part of the story I least liked; she comes across as selfish and immature. After falling pregnant to her best friend Sam in university, she didn't tell him about the baby and gave it up for adoption because Sam was in a relationship with their other friend, Dixie. The ethics of this are hazy, at best, but it's her behaviour in the present that really annoyed me. After the adopted daughter gets in touch and wants to meet her biological parents, Grace travels to stay with Sam and Dixie, and their teenage son, and somehow expects to drop this bombshell and have everything work out okay.
The story is made more complicated by the problems within Sam and Dixie's marriage. Dixie has suffered a miscarriage and can't have any more children, which Sam deals with by having an affair with an employee. Dixie was presented in quite an unlikeable way, despite being, in many ways, the victim of this story. Sam's behaviour was abhorrent, and I honestly ended up wanting Dixie to leave him.
The best part about this story was the character of Danny, a young man who works as Sam's gardener. Lilley writes him as a genuinely warm-hearted and pleasant character who constantly helps the other characters in the book, even when they are to blame for their misfortunes. I thought his dialogue was genuinely witty and fun.
This book is fast-paced and gripping- as mentioned, I read it all in one day. Despite profoundly disliking the protagonist, the complex web of lies was engaging and left me hooked. Unfortunately, there were instances where chapters ended in strange places, or where there were jarring cuts from one point of view to another. This didn't quite work and stopped the book from flowing quite as well as it might have done otherwise.
Overall, I have given this book 3 out of 4 stars. I was obsessed with the dramatic events unfolding and found it difficult to put down. However, this book would have been 4 stars for me if the main character had been more sympathetic and it had flowed more effectively. It is definitely worth reading if you're a fan of women's fiction with a lot of drama.
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