The Best Days of our Lives – Lucy Diamond

Published By: Quercus
Pages: 400
Released On: 16/02/2023

When 35-year-old Leni McKenzie is knocked off her bike, her family’s world is turned upside down.

Leni and her sister Alice were best friends as well as siblings. But did they know each other as well as Alice thought? In the hope of coming to terms with her grief, she tries to piece together Leni’s last weeks – but her discoveries only lead to more questions. And that’s before the surprise reappearance of someone from the past. Life is certainly getting very complicated …

Meanwhile, the rest of the family seem to be falling apart. Belinda, Alice’s mum, has developed an unhealthy obsession with a clairvoyant, and Tony, her dad, is stressed about becoming a father all over again, what with three failed marriages stacking up behind him.

As for Will, the youngest McKenzie, he’s in denial, having hopped onto a plane to Thailand days after the funeral. Secretly, he’s tormented by the part he played in Leni’s death … and the thing about secrets is, they always come out eventually …

*****

Thanks to NetGalley and Quercus for the advanced copy of this title in return for an honest review.

Somehow, this is the first of Lucy Diamond’s books I’ve read. I know of her and I’ve seen her books and often been interest in them, but for reasons unknown to me, I have never actually read one. But I was very eager to read this one.

If I’m honest, I’m a bit on the fence. I found good points and bad.

It took me a while to get into it. The first, maybe, 15% of it was a little bland, a bit vanilla. I don’t mean that in a mean way. It wasn’t bad. But it wasn’t great. It just sort of plodded on and I wondered whether it was going to be for me or not. But it did quickly pick up and the second half just flew by.

Where I’m most conflicted though, is in regards to the character of Leni. We know that she dies early doors (no spoiler – it’s right there in the synopsis), but there’s no real transformation from her being there to not. And part of me would like more depth to her character and more of her story, rather than the drip feeding we get. On the other hand, the main crux of the story lies on her sister, Alice, trying to uncover the last weeks of Leni’s life, and by keeping us in the dark too, it puts us on the same journey, so I can understand why it’s written like that, but it doesn’t stop me wanting more.

Where Lucy Diamond does excel is in her character creation. Main or supporting, old or young, female or male…they’re all so well written. And the extended family as a whole. It’s a great exploration of a dysfunctional family without straying into the pantomime.

One thing I really liked was how everyone’s stories were interconnected. It’s unsurprising that the parent’s and children’s stories link as they’ve all lost the same person, but there are some secondary characters that pop up here and there that help tie it all together. It helps create this sense of community and the importance of friendship and love.

It is definitely full on with the emotions, and potentially a bit too much. If they’re sad, they’re distraught, if they’re a bit lost then they’re mad. Everything is dialled up to such an extreme that it doesn’t always feel in keeping with the characters. However, her description of grief is perfect. I’ve experienced grief in a number of ways and it can present in the most bizarre of situations and the strangest of times, but she’s definitely hit the mark with that. She doesn’t sugar coat the grief but she is equally very sensitive about it.

Yes it is a sad story, you’ll find yourself reaching for the tissues on several occasions. But overall I feel it’s a story about hope and joy, about redemption and family, about second chances, and about how important your loved ones are to you.

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