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When I was younger, I used to love to read. Roald Dahl (The Twits was my favourite), Jacqueline Wilson, Point Horrors and beyond, I’d read all the time.

However, I have never been the fastest of readers.

I used to be rather embarrassed about this. I remember having reading time in class, I would skim through the pages rather than reading them – just to keep up with how fast the other kids were reading; simply because, I didn’t want anyone to know. Then I’d have to re-read it at home to be able to enjoy the story.

I felt as though it was some sort of failure and I’d be made fun of if people found out. I suppose part of me still does as I’ve never said it out loud to anyone – even now. This is my confession.

BUT, my inability to read three books in the space of a week, is not the reason that we are here today. It just explains part of the reason why I have, now at the end of February, finished my first book of 2014. The other reason is because, I don’t read anywhere near as much as I used to, I just don’t seem to have the time; so I get through books rather slowly.

The story I will be reviewing here is Harriet Evans’ Not Without You. 

I must admit, I’d never heard of this story when I first picked it up and read the blurb, and when beginning to read it, I really didn’t know what to expect.

If you don’t learn from history . . .

You’re destined to repeat it

Not without you, she’d said. And I’d let her down…

Hollywood, 1961: when beautiful, much-loved movie star Eve Noel vanishes at the height of her fame, no-one knows where, much less why.

Fifty years later, another young British actress, Sophie Leigh, lives in Eve’s house high in the Hollywood Hills. Eve Noel was her inspiration and Sophie, disenchanted with her life in LA, finds herself becoming increasingly obsessed with the mystery of her idol’s disappearance. And the more she finds out, the more she realises Eve’s life is linked with her own.

As Eve’s tragic past and the present start to collide, Sophie needs to unravel the truth to save them both – but is she already too late? Becoming increasingly entangled in Eve’s world, Sophie must decide whose life she is really living . . .”

A big part of me thought this was going to be a thriller, maybe even a ghost story and I suppose in a way it was (having to face your ghosts from the past to be able to move on and make a better future), but as I read  it I found there wasn’t any one particular genre that I could fully place it into.

It began quite chick-lit-esk, with some humorous and cringing moments for our main character; and moved on to some really quite dark and moving aspects to the story too, but I believe over-all it would probably have to be classed as chick-lit.

Throughout the story we follow Sophie Leigh, a modern British actress living the Hollywood dream, and we are taken back in time to 50’s LA where we also follow Eve Noel, who is similarly a British actress living the Hollywood dream.

We are taken behind the scenes of the glamorous film star lifestyle that so many today dream of having, and whether it’s a true representation or not, it certainly sheds a new light on what it means to be adored and watched by the world. Being surrounded by so many people yet having the feeling of being completely alone, never being able to let your guard down, and never knowing who your real friends are, seems rather sad and lonely.

Harriet Evans has a writing style that lets the reader use their imagination in the best possible way. She paints enough of a picture to start you off and then gives you the freedom to create the rest of the scenery to make the story almost your own.

As I said before, I’m not the fastest of readers and I only read when I can, but this book was a page-turner none-the-less! It kept me guessing all the way through it and wanting to know what was going to happen to our two leading ladies – and why it was important for us to find out what the connection was between them.

What didn’t I like about the book? I hear you ask.

Well, there was a couple of things. Nothing major but for me there seemed to be a few too many background characters to keep track of. I ended up just ignoring some of the names and amalgamating the characters together, which I don’t think harmed the story but it halted the flow sometimes when I’d have to try and remember who was who.

The other thing was the ending. I know how hard it is to write an ending that everyone will be happy with – that’s impossible and honestly, I’m not even sure why I wasn’t thrilled with the ending. I think that for me, it felt like it trailed off rather than stamping its authority and leaving me an emotion – happiness, sadness, confusion – anything.

But saying that, there is certainly enough substance, grit and heart within the story for me to highly recommend it.

I’m very pleased that I stumbled across this book and do feel privileged for knowing it. The stories of Sophie and Eve are one’s that I feel will stay with me for a long time yet, and I will not be in a hurry to evict them any time soon.

Have you read Not Without You? What did you think? Fancy giving it a go if you haven’t?

Now I have to pick my next book to read and review. And I’ve got a few to choose from…

I’ll be putting up a list of the books I have to choose between on Twitter and would love your help in picking my next one!

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2 thoughts on “Book Review: Harriet Evans – Not Without You

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