|My copy of The Time of My Life by Cecelia Ahern arrived from Amazon this weekend. A lovely thick hardback (containing a total of 391 pages) with a cover purple with swirls of gold and blue. Embossed on the front a envelope and letter presenting The Time of my Life by Cecelia Ahern. As I opened it a purple cord popped out waiting to be used as a bookmark adding to the quality feel of the book. So I opened it up and began reading.
We are introduced to Lucy a nearly-thirty year old who has given up on life and lies. Her life consists of going to a job that she hates (writing manuals for electrical appliances in foreign languages); living in a poky little apartment that is her little bubble away from the world (and really, really needs a clean) with her cat Mr. Pan (her rental agreement means she’s not allowed cats); trying to keep Sebastian (her falling-apart car) going and keeping up with her friends and family’s lives. Until one day she gets a letter from Life and she has no choice but to meet it face-to-face.
Before Lucy get’s to meet her life she tells us about Blake. Blake was her seemingly perfect ex-partner, a good cook, loves travel and adventure and who everyone liked. But nearly three years ago he had the it’s not you, it’s me chat with her and subsequently left. Blake, at the time convinced Lucy that it would be easier for her to say that she’d left him rather than he’d left her to their mutual friends. Since then Blake’s life seemingly has improved he’s on the tele doing a travel and adventure series while she has ignored her life for so long that it wants to meet her.
Lucy’s missed several appointments with Life so telephones to make a suitable time for an appointment thinking of every excuse she can to get out of it – one of which that she has a family party to attend. The Life Agency agrees to see Lucy at their office a week after the family party. At the family party we are introduced to mum, father (a judge with very conservative views who thinks Lucy’s a screw-up), Riley and Philip her “successful” brothers (according to her opinionated father). Lucy’s mum announces that her and her husband are renewing their wedding vows and Lucy announces that she has an appointment with Life, but it seems the family already know. It comes out that her family have been worried about her for sometime so signed the papers allowing the Life Agency to intervene. Her father even signed them despite him believing it was all “mubo-jumbo.”
So Lucy goes off to meet her life. What does her life look like? First off it’s a man; an unkempt man with bad breathe, clammy hands in a crinkled suit, looking generally worse for wear. Lucy is shocked to discover that this man seems to know everything about her and I mean absolutely everything. They talk about her life with Lucy not liking Life making her aware of how much of a rut she’s in. What I love about this character Life is the element of magic he adds to the story. He seems to be able to influence people to collide into Lucy’s life. His appearance drastically alters depending on how well or not she is doing at moving forward with her life. If she does well his bad breathe goes, clammy hands disappear and he appears smarter. At one point Lucy see’s him with a red blotchy rash when she’s going way off track. Lucy gives Life a name Cosmo Brown for when she’s introducing him to friends, family, etc.
Lucy get’s sent another envelope with another appointment in to meet life but ignores it. But the letters keep coming, to her home, to her work and even to her family. Then we are introduced to Lucy’s friends who were once Blake and Lucy’s friends. It becomes apparent that they don’t understand why she broke Blake’s heart (more like the other-way round) and that they believe she must have cheated on him. Meanwhile she continues to watch Blake on the tele, almost obsessed with him. Lucy also calls the Magic Carpet Cleaning Company for her apartment more out of necessity (rather than caring if the carpets clean) recommended by the receptionist at the life Agency and gets the wrong number. A guy called Don answers and they start flirtatiously texting adding a love interest to Lucy’s life.
Lucy eventually makes another appointment with her life but at the last minute has to cancel as her neighbour asks her to look after her child so she can visit her mother whose ill in hospital. Only her child is imaginary. There are photos of her child, so he must have died and the neighbours dealt with it by slipping into an imaginary world. Lucy calls life at a local Starbucks where they are due to meet. Life doesn’t trust her and he goes round to check. They talk and Lucy agrees to give this Life thing a try. Then life moves in and tells her that he has to follow her everywhere to get an understanding of her life. Lucy assumes that Life is just going to observe but he feels a need to intervene and tell people when she’s telling lies. What follows is a number of very humorous chapters before her and Life strike a deal: every time she tells a lie he will tell a truth.
The Magic Carpet Cleaning Company come to do her carpets and she eventually discovers that the mysterious wrong-number-Don she’s been texting is the carpet cleaner. They spend a fantastic night together and she feels no need to lie to him. Plus he’s really interested in chatting to Life indicating that he’s interested in her life. But after the night has passed Lucy has mixed feelings about it and thinks about Blake. Don invites her out for coffee, drinks and dinner or lunch but she declines.
Lucy visits her family with Life supposedly coming to meet the family. But Lucy and Life get into an argument beforehand and she’s suddenly unsure if he’s going to turn up. After half an hour Don turns up to clean a carpet booked by the housekeeper. Lucy convinces Don to pretend to be Life but it results in Lucy’s father speaking his mind about her life, Don defending her and being asked to leave. Life turns up but he’s too late it’s all happened. Then Lucy learns from her friends that Blake has finished filming and has set up an outdoor adventure centre in Wexford.
Lucy begins to realise with Life’s help that she isn’t living merely existing with no hopes and dreams. So she finds one: she’s going to Wexford to get back with Blake. One problem the time she intends to do it Life has arranged to see Don. Life explains that she needs to choose between Blake and Don, she might not see it as a choice but Don does. Lucy gets fired from her job for telling the truth about an earlier incident whilst trying to save the job of one of her colleagues. It gives Lucy (and a reluctant Life) the perfect opportunity to go and see Blake sooner. When Lucy finally gets time alone with Blake he feels that nothings changed. But Lucy realises that something has: her. Lucy has an epiphany and realises that she her life went down-hill when she started telling lies to hide herself from the world including all those she loves. Lucy talks to Blake about wanting to tell the truth about their split-up to their friends but Blake doesn’t want to be seen as the bad guy. Lucy tries to explain that it’s not about him it’s about her and her life but unsurprisingly he doesn’t get it.
Lucy arrives back home from Wexford to find her mum in tears at her door. Lucy’s mum tells her that the wedding vows renewal is off and Lucy is struck by her mums unusual display of emotion and honesty (not what the Silchester’s do – what will people think?). They discuss things in both of their lives and a closer bond develops between them. Later in the epilogue we find out that the wedding vows renewal did take place.
A day before Lucy’s thirtieth starts baking again like she used to. Life turns up and she tells him she has a plan. She plans to have a truth party for her friends and the closer members of her family (namely mum and Riley). Lucy keeps a chair free hoping Don will turn up but he doesn’t. Lucy decides to start with her first lie – the one about the break-up of her and Blake. But then Blake arrives through the door and tries to rivet his forma friends with discussion of a recipe book he’s working on that goes on for sometime. After sometime an assertive friend in the group asks Blake to shut up and allow Lucy to talk. Lucy reveals the truth behind all her lies and as her friends learn the truth they turn on Blake. One of the group of friends speak saying that he speaks for them all – that he can’t believe she felt she couldn’t tell them and that it wouldn’t have changed their opinion of her. Afterwards Lucy is walked home by Life.
It’s a sad moment as Life says that Lucy no longer needs him. Life promises to visit from time to time and you can understand Lucy’s feeling of loosing a best friend. Finally Lucy get’s it together with Don after persuading him that he isn’t her second choice – with a good dollop of humour as well. The epilogue is set on the day of Lucy’s mum and father making their wedding renewal vows. Lucy discovers that she isn’t the only one to clash with her father, that they are always going to have a strained relationship and it’s more about him than her. Lucy watches with Don, Melanie (her best friend) as her mum and father renew their wedding vows. Lucy smiles as she realises Life is there keeping an eye on her and smiling, pleased with her.
In this review I have tried to stick to the main plot line. There are quite a number of events in chapters all containing mix of humour, seriousness and the perfect amount of description that I have missed out that acted as links between events in the storyline. You come to understand Lucy like a friend you’ve known for years and all the other characters has enough depth for them to feel real. The exception to this is Life which deliberately has a level of mysteriousness as the weaver of the magic in the book.
This beautifully written up-beat book is one of the best I have ever read. It is hilarious, yet serious getting the balance perfectly right. The theme of the book is about giving up on life: even if you give up on life, it doesn’t give up on you. It encourages you to take care of your life and give it the love and attention you give to your loved ones.
The theme resonated with me because recently I feel like I’ve given up on life. I have been incredibly sad after the death of my younger brother Alex (see My Darling Baby Brother & Grief) and feel like I’ve given up. Like Lucy I am most content when I’m in my rut. Indeed I avoid people when I can, especially those who are closest to me and know me well. As for my rut, my home, the hallway has become like a dumping ground heaps of the most random stuff; my bed unmade most of the time; and I can’t remember the last time see my desk it’s piled with stuff that’s got a visible layer of dusk covering it. I guess on some level I lie like Lucy does – making up excuses to avoid situations, but the biggest lie I tell is when people I ask how I am I say I’m fine.
Of course like everyone my mood changes day-to-day. I have days were my zest for life returns, like landing my new job (see Exciting News & Things To Look Forward Too) and I like to think that my Life is helping me along with getting it back on track.
You can buy The Time of My Life by Cecelia Ahern on Amazon and I certainly highly recommend it. It’s Cecelia Ahern’s best work to date. I am already thinking of who to borrow the book too in order for them to enjoy, laugh and use to reflect on their own life.