When I saw this book was comparable to Sally Rooney’s Normal People (one of my all-time favourite books – ever), I couldn’t not get it! Besides, it was also during a trip to Brighton (one of my favourite places – ever) that I picked it up in their Waterstones – a wonderful store.
Ava is Irish, 22 and convinced everyone hates her – that she is difficult to like or love. She has also isolated herself in Hong Kong by teaching English (where I also learned a thing or two about grammar myself whilst reading!) and eventually ends up staying with Julian, a banker with a trendy apartment.
There is an evident chemistry between the two, but she fails to acknowledge it, nor does he admit his feelings – or any feelings for that matter – to her.
I thought the book got off to a strong start, with similar themes and style of writing to Normal People, highlighting the smallest of things in situations that wouldn’t be mentioned in other novels.
When Julian goes back to the UK, Ava is allowed to stay in his apartment. She meets Edith. Edith actually listens to what Ava says, unlike Julian, and makes an effort to meet up with her. We get a running commentary of how Ava likes to come across as playing it cool, yet stalks her on social media and strategically decides not to view her story – especially when it is someone we like (no? just me? awks.).
Anyhow, their friendship inevitably blossoms into something more, with feelings being said later that is expected – as per real life situations, I guess – as one is afraid of what the other might think.
Nevertheless, exciting times lie ahead for the couple – or do they? Particularly when Julian announces he will be returning to Hong Kong…
Despite liking it at the start, I will admit I got a bit bored towards the end. It’s a shame as it was giving me a very good Rooney vibe, but Dolan should deserve an evaluation based on her own work.
I’d still recommend this novel if you’re seeking another Normal People hit, or an Irish romance; it makes this seems a lot calmer and softer. (hopefully that isn’t just me!)
rating – 3.5/5
genre – romance, fiction, Irish romance