Book Review: The Staycation by Michele Gorman

Michele Gorman’s new novel sees two families swap homes for a Staycation that will have long-lasting effects on everyone involved

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I received a copy of The Staycation* for review

Harriet is at Heathrow airport preparing to fly out to Italy for a much-needed family holiday, when an Icelandic volcano erupts. Her flight is postponed and while waiting for news, she starts chatting to Sophie, who is also preparing to board the same flight with her own family.

The flights are cancelled – which probably sounds familiar to anyone who was caught up in the 2010 ash cloud. But rather than giving up and go home, the two women agree to a house-swap staycation. Harriet heads to Sophie’s London house with her husband and teenage daughter, while Sophie will be spending two weeks in Harriet’s Cotswolds cottage with her husband and their two children.

Both women were hoping that some family time would help to resolve problems in their marriages. But Harriet’s family seem to be tired of her organisational prowess, and Sophie’s growing confidence seems to be rubbing her husband up the wrong way.

Over the course of the two week staycation, both women learn a lot about themselves as well as their husbands. And that’s going to have an effect that lasts longer than the ash cloud!

I’ve read several of Michele Gorman’s books, including those written under her pen name of Lilly Bartlett. She has a great way of creating characters that are very real, and building the story within her books.

In The Staycation*, the main characters are two women with very different personalities.

Harriet is a working mum who gets through the stresses of life by being super-organised. She loves her labelmaker, possibly a little bit too much, but struggles to relate to her teenage daughter and is infuriated by her husband James. Their 20 year old marriage is on the rocks, and she’s hoping to re-kindle the flames, but she might have left it too late.

Meanwhile Sophie gave up work when she married Dan. And although she loves motherhood and volunteering for charities, she’s starting to feel that she lost herself somewhere along the way. Dan’s obsession with his work and throwaway snide remarks have chipped away at her self-confidence. But is two weeks in the countryside enough to show her that she’s not just the ‘silly bean’ that Dan tells her she is?

I really liked Sophie, her energy and enthusiasm for life are very appealing and I really hoped that she would be able to shake off the chains of her marriage to Dan. It was harder to warm to Harriet, but I suspect that was the author’s intent. She’s abrupt, direct and always looking for the solution to every problem when sometimes people don’t want to be organised. But Harriet also reaches something of an epiphany and it’s good to see how her character grows.

Michele Gorman is very skilled at weaving the two strands of the story together, and adds touches of humour that bring levity to the situation. I laughed out loud at a scenario involving a snail that meets an unfortunate end, not to mention the sudden reappearance of a missing snake.

And the supporting cast in The Staycation are just as important. Harriet’s husband James seems to be very tolerant and laid back, but he’s clearly keeping some kind of secret. Is that why their marriage is so rocky? Sophie’s husband Dan is less likeable than James. He has a secret of his own but this one could be far more serious.

I really enjoyed this book – the characters are believable, the story moves along at a good pace, and there’s one little twist that is resolved right at the end to keep you hooked!

When she sat down to write The Staycation, Michele Gorman couldn’t possibly have known overseas travel would be off the agenda for summer 2020. But if your 2020 holiday is going to be a staycation in your own back garden, this is certainly a read that will keep you entertained!

The blurb:

Two families. One cancelled flight. And a last minute house swap…

Things get desperate for strangers Harriet and Sophie when they become stranded with their families in Heathrow’s Terminal 5. Each woman has her own reason for really really really needing the family holiday they’ve anticipated for months. But Iceland’s volcano has other plans for them. When their flights are cancelled, the families swap houses and discover that sometimes the best things in life happen close to home.

This ash cloud has a silver lining, even if no one can quite see it yet.

A fun read that will keep you entertained through your own Staycation – 8.5/10

The Staycation* will be published by Orion Publishing on 23rd July 2020 in paperback and Kindle format

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