Title: All I Ever Wanted
Author: Lucy DillonLucy Dillon
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Nancy is four, nearly five. She talks all the time: in the car, on the way to nursery, to her extrovert older brother, to her collection of bears. But then, one February morning, everything changes. Nancy’s mum and dad split up. Her father Patrick moves away from their Bristol home to Newcastle. And Nancy stops talking.
Eva is forty-four, nearly forty-five. She didn’t expect to be the third wife of a much-loved household name, but eight years ago, she and semi-retired bad boy Michael Quinn fell in love. Eva knew marrying a much older man meant compromises, but it was the love of a lifetime for them both – until Mickey dies suddenly, leaving Eva alone with his gossipy diaries, their two pugs, and a distressing voice in the back of her mind, wondering if perhaps she’s sacrificed more than she meant to.
While Nancy’s parents negotiate their separation, the question of weekend contact is solved when Patrick volunteers his sister Eva’s house. It’s in Longhampton, an hour out of Bristol, with plenty of room for her to get to know a niece and nephew she’s barely met – even if Nancy continues to refuse to speak. Patrick is sure it’s just a phase but his soon-to-be-ex-wife is worried that something more traumatic lies at the heart of their daughter’s selective mutism.
Meanwhile, Eva begins to read through Mickey’s diaries, and with every page she’s forced to confront a view of her marriage that turns everything she believed about her late husband, her self – and her own heart – on its head. The fortnightly presence of two children in her peaceful, grown-up home – one constantly singing and performing, the other wordless and sad – initially drives Eva and the two pugs, Bumble and Bee, to exhaustion, but as spring turns into summer, a trust slowly begins to form between an anxious little girl with a heartbreaking secret, and a woman who has realised too late that what her soul yearns for is the love of a child.
I haven’t read any other Lucy Dillon books before, but All I Ever Wanted really impressed me. It was everything I wanted it to be: sweet, emotional, funny, realistic and SO well written.
The characters all really struck a chord with me. I loved both Eva and Caitlin in their own ways; they’re very different but have a lot in common too, and I really liked how they felt like real people to me. The kids were lovely too – Joel seems so sweet and I really enjoyed reading about him!
It’s not what I’d call ‘action-packed’, with some points slower than others, but I really liked that about it. The story-line addresses ‘real-life’ problems and issues around relationships and family, and making everyday life work when life itself can be so hectic and stressful – or, for Eva, a bit less hectic but filled with grief at the loss of her husband. I really felt for her and I liked that the author didn’t make anyone out to be a ‘bad’ person, as such – but sometimes people just grate on each other for various reasons, and sometimes things are much better.
I’m really glad Lucy Dillon avoided making any of this novel too cheesy – there were definitely emotional and heart-warming parts to the story, and some bits were really sad, but it was all written with such skill – and the adorable pugs were an added bonus!
I am so impressed with All I Ever Wanted; it really shines and I will definitely be reading more of her novels.
All I Ever Wanted is released in the UK on 1 December 2016.