By Nina Bell
Published by Sphere, an imprint of Little, Brown
Big family drama is what Nina Bell is famous for writing about and rightly so. At first I was attracted by the beautiful cover of The Empty Nesters. My interest was piqued by the blurb. The book then proceeded to conquer me. What a cleverly-plotted novel!
To make it really simple: Clover and Laura became friends when their children started school and have spent years sharing school runs, sleepovers, holidays etc. Alice is their friend too but – as a single mother trying to build a successful business – she’s mostly been receiving the two women’s help while unable to give much support in return. But helping each other out is what friends are for, right?
Now that the kids have all grown up and are leaving their parents’ homes to go onto university, Laura and, especially, Clover are looking forward to a more equal relationship with Alice. Now that she has found success and her daughter is away at Oxford, though, she doesn’t seem concerned in keeping in touch with her two friends. In fact, she seems to be ignoring them, while planning something that goes against all notions of friendships.
If it sounds like there are too many characters and you think that you might get confused, please don’t worry. It’s true that there are a lot of characters – and I haven’t even mentioned half of them – but each of them is outlined in such a clear and distinctive way there will be no doubt as to who’s who at any point during the narrative.
What Nina Bell does make us wonder is what is going on! In the hands of the wrong author, it’d be possible to foresee the ending of the book by reading the prologue only. Not in this case. Readers are bound to form theories like they’re bound to have those same theories challenged as the novel takes unexpected twists and turns.
Smart and well-written, The Empty Nesters tackles important issues – motherhood, friendship, love and illness – in an engaging and original way. And you don’t need to be a parent or ‘empty nester’ to enjoy this novel. I’m neither and I loved it!
If you missed my interview with Nina Bell, please follow this link.