Fern's warmth, insight and humour combine to deliver a hugely enjoyable novel that will speak to women everywhere. Read by Fern Britton Helen Merrifield has said goodbye to her philandering husband and her swish West London house to live in an idyllic country cottage in the heart of a postcard-perfect village in Cornwall. Putting the past behind her, Helen throws herself into country life and soon makes a new set of eccentric friends. To her surprise, Helen finds herself the love-interest of two very different men: the kind, gentle, desperate-for-love-and-sex Simon, and the darkly enigmatic local historian Piran. Whilst Helen is getting to grips with her new life, her oldest and dearest friend, Penny, a hot-shot TV Producer, has decided that the village is the perfect setting for her new TV series.
When the cast and crew descend, two worlds collide, and Helen is thrown headlong into 5am wake-up calls and temperamental celebrities. In the midst of all this, Helen stumbles across a forgotten old tin chest full of Edwardian treasures. Who do they belong to? Will the unpleasant historian Piran help her to find out or will Simon have the key? As Helen finds herself the focus of Simon and Piran's attentions, it looks like her ex-husband is planning to put in an unscheduled appearance. Will Helen embrace the future, or is it too difficult to let go of the past?
©2012 Fern Britton (P)2012 HarperCollins Publishers Limited
"Praise for New Beginnings 'little corker of a book!'" (Heat)
"Fern Britton has transferred her fun and friendly charm to the page" (Good Housekeeping)
"Hugely entertaining novel" (The Ticket)
"'Fern is a survivor" (Good Housekeeping)
"A must-read! The mother of daytime TV opens up" (Heat)
"I defy anyone to read this and ultimately not to feel buoyed with optimism in this hugely readable autobiography we are reminded of just why we love her." (Sunday Express)
Encouraged by the brilliant audiobook The Haunting by fellow TV personality Alan Titchmarsh, I decided to give Fern Britton a go in the hope of listening to something equally pleasing and easy. But where Titchmarsh's work was charming and utterly absorbing this was just all rather underwhelming. The central character Helen is likeable and the story sounds as though it has promise. A bit of pizzaz that should be offered by the arrival of Helen's best friend and the TV crew planning to film what they hope will be a hot new TV series in the Cornish village Helen has recently moved to, fails to grip and the locals, all of whom have absurd pastiche west-country accents, just sound a bit thick thanks to Fern's risible attempts at Cornish enunciation.
One of Helen's potential love interest's is so callow and feeble, however 'good' he might be and despite being told he has a great body thanks to surfing, he just seems dull and deeply sexless. And, aside from my narration issues, that's the main problem with this book, it's just all a bit dull. I don't like bitchy characters and I'm after escapist happy ending-style audios but it is possible to fulfil these criteria whilst still instilling elements of pathos, realism and pace. This wasn't so bad that I gave up and some listeners may enjoy this but I'm afraid my mind wandered. I didn't relish listening to it and there was zero suspense or intrigue. The latter was meant to be provided by the sub-plot surrounding the tin box Helen finds that gives the book it's title but this storyline felt rather clumsily tagged on.
I have been listening to audios from the age of four and during six years of illness have worked my way through hundreds of titles yet I have never encountered a narrator who didn't take a pause at the end of a chapter to read out the number of the next chapter. This may seem like a nit-picking point but besides loathing the narrator Jilly Bond, I almost always enjoy narrators bringing the books I listen to to life. But the combination of Fern, who has a nice voice, rushed pace and zooming from chapter to chapter at absurd speed along with the terrible accents, certainly did not do this title any favours.
This was not the most exciting book. Average really. However it would have been improved if the author had read it more slowly and at least paused between chapters. A holiday read perhaps.
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