A novel of a writer, who writes and critiques other writers, is often an interesting read. This book contains much more – humour, ballet and innuendo, literary festivals and friendship. Trisha Ashley has created Tina Devino who tells her story very much in her own words, and with her own suggestive tales of her regular lover, partner and friend, the retired but still active ballet dancer Sergei. There are letters throughout addressed to Tina’s agency for aspiring writers, where for a certain sum a range of individuals send their manuscripts of varying quality for Tina’s scrutiny and advice. She replies with humour and discretion and I enjoyed these insertions into the story very much. Meanwhile we see Tina’s interactions with various people in her life; her publisher, Salubrious Press with a surprise, her agent, Miracle, and her good friend Linny. She has local friends in the seaside town of Shrimphaven, who help her with diverse things as computers, as the internet was a new thing for her, and her pet mouse Minnie. This is a very funny book, with Ashley’s usual cast of characters and a plot that is far more than a straightforward romance. Tina is a wonderful creation, with a lot of determination to make the most of her career as a “mid list author”, and this is a most entertaining book.
The book opens with Tina receiving a dictaphone so she can make notes for her novels, which Linny confidently predicts will be bestsellers. That would certainly relive the financial pressures on Tina, but meanwhile she will keep producing her novels of gardening and passion and supplementing her income looking through the novels sent to her, often too long, beyond definition and not even in convincing English. They make for funny interludes, as she copes with Linny’s random behaviour and Sergei’s regular phone calls. Her brother is convinced that the family is from an Italian gangster background, and his family are all that is left of Tina’s relatives. She is no longer in contact with her ex husband, Tim, but her long term part time relationship with Sergei is quite exhausting. She becomes determined to save her career in the face of blonde debut writers, and decides that as her publisher will not spend anything on publicity for her book she must get some herself. Happily, that may not be too difficult with Sergi on her team.
This is a most entertaining novel with some very funny incidents, all seen through Tina’s remarkable point of view. Her clothes and her concerns are always funny. Her experiences at literary events have a certain ring of truth, especially when she is trying to lead a writing session. There are plenty of imaginative events involving Sergei, who embraces celebrity with great flair. The letters that are sent by the would be writers are very funny, as they reveal their great hopes for success and fame despite their frequent misunderstanding of genre and writing altogether. Every part of this book gives a picture of an unusual woman with a great sense of fun.
This book originally appeared in 2008 as “Happy Endings”, which explains why the attitude to computers and the ignorance of such things and mobile phones may be noticed. This novel, like the other Trisha Ashley books I have enjoyed and reviewed, features women who are forced to reassess their lives for various reasons. This one is a lot lighter than some. I think it is one of a great variety of books that have come my way recently, and is very different from the book I hope to review tomorrow.