BLURB: “Gina Bellamy is starting again, after a few years she’d rather forget. But the belongings she’s treasured for so long don’t seem to fit who she is now. So Gina makes a resolution. She’ll keep just a hundred special items – the rest can go. But that means coming to turns with her past and learning to embrace the future, whatever it might bring…”
REVIEW: I have read one of Lucy Dillon’s books before and absolutely loved it; Dillon is excellent at crafting beautifully written, heartwarming stories about the importance of love and friendship, stories that are sometimes, like this one, incredibly bittersweet. I also love how all of her books are interconnected; all set in the rural village of Longhampton, many of the characters from other novels reappear, linking all the novels nicely in together; for example, Gina’s lawyer in her divorce case is a character named Rory, who featured in a previous work of Dillon’s. This adds a little something extra for the reader, and allows them to feel as though Longhampton is their home, as well as the home of the various characters they have become attached to. This particularly novel opens at a dark time in Gina Bellamy’s life; she has moved in to a small flat in Longhampton after finding out that her husband is cheating on her, and is in the process of going through a divorce. It has been a hard few years for Gina, who has lived through breast cancer, lost her beloved stepfather, and lost her first love in an incident which is unfolded gradually to the reader and remains a mystery throughout the book – this is a beautifully written and vital part of the plot, so I will not spoil it here. In order to shape her recovery, Gina, with the sceptical help of her best friend Naomi, decides to remove all of her treasured items from her life and keep only one hundred special items, thinking about things that truly make her happy or improve her life. She also throws herself into the renovation of her dream home, where she meets career-driven Amanda and her laid-back photographer husband, Nick, who have big plans for the property. Gina’s life is thrown in to some chaos, however, when a timid abandoned greyhound named Buzz becomes her responsibility – and it is from this point onwards that I truly fell in love with the book. As I have previously mentioned, I myself own a retired greyhound, and he is the centre of my world. I adore him and often wonder how I ever lived without him, and it upsets me so much to think what he went through in racing kennels before he became the soppy, cuddly, sofa-hogging mischief-maker that he is now. Much like my own greyhound did with me, Buzz begins to change Gina’s life. Her reluctant fostering of him slowly turns into adoption, and it is truly heartwarming to read of Buzz gradually coming out of his shell and beginning to trust and love Gina; and also to read of how Buzz changes Gina’s outlook on the world, encouraging her to find happiness in the small things. Buzz stole the show in this novel for me, as a greyhound lover, and I was pleased at how Dillon used his character to address the suffering faced by both racing and non-racing greyhounds every day of their lives, and how many of them are often not lucky enough to find a loving, happy home (she even includes a list of reasons to adopt a retired greyhound in the back of the book, and I can fully endorse them all!). Gina’s life is beginning to look up, particularly when Nick and Amanda’s fractious marriage breaks down and Nick confesses his feelings for her. The end of the novel, however, provides a shocking twist and is possibly one of the most bittersweet endings I have ever read in a novel, as Gina discovers that her breast cancer has returned. As a dog owner, I couldn’t help myself sobbing at the anxiety Gina feels over who will look after Buzz if something happens to her, and at the unfairness of Gina’s happiness being marred the untimely return of her illness. The book is left on this strange, bittersweet note, and although it made me cry, it also warmed my heart, and made me think carefully about what makes me happy, and what is most important. I encourage you all to read it; I’m sure it will make you do the same.