‘… in life are free!’
Don’t tell me you didn’t just sing or think that too when you read the title!
As one half of the original Great British Bake Off Mel & Sue duo, comic Mel Giedroyc’s debut novel is full of laughs and relatable occurrences in the Parker family, apart from they live in a gated community within Leatherhead at their uber-extravagant, lavish, enviable Cedar Vale home. Just think ‘Surrey’. Pool. Ride on lawnmowers. Designer clothes. Staff on hand. 7 dogs. A lavish staircase. And a spoilt family to go with it.
Frank Parker owns a hedge fund in the city with his business partner Amerjit Singh, until one day the market goes the wrong way – on the same day Frank chooses to catch up on sleep from being burnt out.
Needless to say, everything goes t*ts up for the breadwinners.
Soon enough, the reality of many people settles in for Sally and her family, where she slowly begins to lose her grip on their previous life, as well as her own family. Having been used to the finer things in life, everything has quickly slipped away:
- her home (Frank’s been renting their grand Cedar Vale house, oops)
- their nanny
- house workers
Following the Parkers, Giedroyc’s funny account of the family is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. I very much pictured this as a Sky adaptation, where the kids (Mikey/Michaela, Stephen and Cleo, plus their super smart cousin Emily) are demanding at the start, the house is utter chaos and Sally is trying to maintain a grip.
Not only is Sally losing her grip, but Amerjit has gone completely mad after losing everything – including his wife Laura who walks out on him. With nothing left, he strips down in front of his employees and passers-by – multiple times – therefore adding even more to the comical element of this book.
Throughout the book, Sally is mad at Frank, just like Amerjit is simply mad. Well, who wouldn’t be mad at their husband if they just lost everything!? He tries to make it up to her and fix things, but as useless as he is, he ends up making things even worse. Throw in his brother Kyle into the mix and you get an even more useless recipe.
It turns out despite their children’s demands; they are very unique and gifted in their own ways which were previously overlooked by their well achieving cousin Emily.
There is a lot going on in this book, including a minor fling, big crushes on behalf of their dog groomer Janice, and an encounter with cleaner Zeeva, making Sally truly realise where the best things are in life.
Sally’s ‘friends’ reveal their true colours, and the Parker family are introduced to Lidl.
It’s unclear where the novel is headed until news come of Frank and Kyle’s dying mum, Bronwen, in Snowdonia – will they visit her before she dies?
There were a few loose ends not tied up for my liking, such as where Laura went, what comes of Sally’s ‘friend’ Francesca and her husband Tim Daly-Jones, including the Parker’s family doctor, Professor Livesy, who turns out not to be a Professor but then rushes away to America…?
Overall, a very funny, witty novel which put a big smile on my face when feeling down.
Rating – 4/5
Genre – fiction, domestic fiction. comedy