Tag Archives: advice

Review: Your Second Life Begins When You Realise You Only Have One by Raphaelle Giordano

your-second-life-begins-when-you-realize-you-only-have-one-1Phew! What a title! Your Second Life is a French phenomenon. Published three years ago, word spread and it’s now a bestseller, staying in the French top ten for over a year, despite its terrible title. Now it’s coming to England.

It’s rather cute to look at, a small hardback with a Tiffany blue cover and the title in red. ‘The novel that made 2 million people happy!’ reads the strapline.

Your Second Life is about Camille, a normal working mother who, like all of us, is trying to juggle her life and finding it hard. She doesn’t like her job, her work colleagues laugh at her, she’s lost connection with her husband and she spends time shouting at her son and hating herself for doing so. Her self esteem is rock bottom and, when she has a tyre blow out one night in a rain storm, she seeks help in a nearby house to call a mechanic and finds much more.

Claude, an older handsome Frenchman, is inside the house and as Camille breaks down from stress he comes to her rescue.

“You’re probably suffering from a kind of acute routinitis.”

“A what?”

“Acute routinitis. It’s a sickness of the soul that affects more and more people in the world, especially in the West. The symptoms are almost always the same: a lack of motivation; chronic dissatisfaction; feeling you’ve lost your way in life; finding it hard to feel happy even though you have more than enough material goods; disenchantment; world-weariness…”

“But… how do you know all this?”

“I’m a routinologist.”

I admit, this made me laugh. For we’re all Camille, aren’t we? Claude goes on to help Camille reconnect with her life and her sense of self. From here the novel is basically a self-help book, with Claude offering tips on how to make time for what’s important and discard negative energy. I’ve read business books with narratives before so it’s a tried and trusted technique and works nicely here too. (Claude would, I’m sure, tell me that my dislike of the title is part of my negative energy and I should change it. Yeah, maybe…)

The feminist in me did bristle at parts of the book, some of which I think might be a reflection of French culture, but nevertheless. Camille is encouraged to see herself as both the problem and the solution, taking her frustrations with her husband, son and patronising rude workmates and changing her ways in order to get them change theirs. At no point is she allowed to suggest to her husband that he might do some housework, to make her feel better, for example even as the new Camille, she’s still putting herself down for not doing some cleaning, and she’s really pleased when she has time to make dinner. When she and Claude tackle her self esteem and negative body image, she rates her success by how many compliments she gets from men, with no other real benchmark.

Of course, nothing in the book says you have to follow the same path or rate your own self improvement in the same way as Camille. So yes, I’m going to rate my own body image in how I feel about it, thanks very much. The techniques suggested by Claude are all listed in the back of the book to help offer advice or guidance on what you might like to tackle – most of them are really simple, things like using positive notebooks, making collages of people you admire, mindfulness, taking small steps, and so on.

As you can imagine, there’s little tension in the book as you know Camille will work her problems out but I liked the ending – a neat wrap up and continuation. We can all help each other.

Whatever you might think about self-help books, taking some time to be mindful or appreciating the small things, staying positive and taking small steps towards new habits are all good things to try and a reminder like this is helpful to all of us. After all, we’ve all been Camille, we’re all struggling from time to time. Using Your Second Life can help you take stock – it’s a fun read with a little lesson within.

Your Second Life… by Raphaelle Giordano is published by Bantam Press on 12 July 2018. Thanks to Hayley Barnes at Penguin Random House for the review copy.

Review: Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce

Dear Mrs BirdWhat a tonic this book is. I saved it to read until one cold snowy evening last week, as the Beast from the East did its worst outside and it was an excellent decision. ‘Dear Mrs Bird’ is exactly what you would want to be reading while the elements are howling at the door. It is warm, cosy in the best sense, and full of positive loveliness.

The story is told by Emmeline Lake, Emmy to her friends, who dreams of being a journalist – a lady war correspondent (it’s 1941) to be precise – and so when she spots an advert for a junior at The London Evening Chronicle, she seizes her chance and goes for an interview. It is only when she has quit her job and told all her friends at the fire station where she volunteers, that she finds the job is actually a typist at the Woman’s Friend, an ailing women’s monthly. Not only that, but she is the junior assistant to Mrs Bird, a redoubtable creature who is the magazine’s Acting Editress and agony aunt. Furthermore, Mrs Bird has STANDARDS when it comes to the type of letter she will answer and these are very restrictive indeed.

“I hardly think the Woman’s Friend reader wants her afternoon spoilt by This Kind Of Thing, do you?”

“Affairs… losing their heads… babies… UNPLEASANTNESSES,” she boomed, pausing to let the abomination sink in. “And, even, Miss Lake… NERVES.”

Well, really. Emmy tries to make the best of it, if only to save face and also because she starts to become friends with the rest of the very small staff at the magazine. However, she regards the women in the letters very differently to Mrs Bird and, after her early attempts to get Mrs Bird to answer some of the queries fail, decides to answer the letters herself.

Emmy lives with her best friend Bunty, and friends with a wider circle of girls, all of whom are trying to make it through the bombing raids in one piece, doing their bit but still trying to have fun. Emmy’s friends at the office are friendly and full of that old fashioned ‘making the best of things’ spirit but none of this feels cliched – you immediately care for all of them and don’t mind if this all sounds familiar in a Sunday evening TV drama kind of way. Mrs Bird herself must have been great fun to write.

As you can imagine, the letter writing scheme soon has consequences but not until after a dreadful tragedy that shakes Emmy’s world.

This is a light read, easy to get through, but shouldn’t be dismissed because of that. It seems so rare these days to have a book that offers comfort against dark times, and perhaps it’s exactly what we all need. Dear Mrs Bird is funny, sweet and warm, celebrating friendship and the consequences of taking a chance. Curl up and enjoy.

Dear Mrs Bird is published by Pan Macmillan on 5 April 2018. Thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for my review copy.

Review: How to be a Grown Up

I should start this review with a disclaimer: I am NOT the target demographic for this book. I’m way too old. However, I’m (just) young enough to remember the heady terrifying years of my twenties and now that’s thankfully all behind me, I can sit back and read this with an air of relaxation.

How to be a Grown Up is a positive manual for twenty-somethings navigating their way in the world. While it’s easy for the rest of us to mutter and talk about how there are worse things going on in the world these days, take a moment to think back and remember how important your problems seemed when you were 24. You’re finding your feet in an uncertain world and, let’s face it, the current crop of young people face a precarious situation in employment and housing. So a handbook on how to deal with relationships, parents, jobs, friends and so on would be pretty useful. I think I’d have benefited from this.

Daisy Buchanan is Grazia’s agony aunt, as well as having all kinds of experience writing for magazines and her writing style reads straight off their glossy pages. This makes it readable, funny and relatable. She’s written a friendly this-is-how-i-ballsed-this-up-learn-from-me kind of book, with the help of a few experts thrown in. Let’s face it, we all like those kind of stories don’t we? So reading this is like chatting with a friend you’ve not seen for a while and really gossiping and delving deep into each other’s mistakes.

Chapters include:

  • Confidence
  • Work
  • Loving your body
  • Sex
  • Clothes
  • Parents
  • Money
  • How to deal with mistakes, mental health issues and being sad

There are more. In between some of these are ‘A Few Words about…’ which contain advice on panic attacks, masturbation and, I found most importantly, how to wash your hair. This one is great advice which I have immediately started doing and am thrilled by the results. *tosses hair back in dramatic fashion*

Perhaps there is little that’s new here from what we have been reading in advice columns for years, but the tone is friendlier than many books often are. Buchanan is frank about mental health problems and body confidence issues, both of which seem to be mostly ignored in so many publications. Her advice is simple – learn to love yourself and the rest will follow. Easy to say. But the tone makes you believe you can do it. Even the subtitle of the book is encouraging ‘You’re Doing Fine and Let Me Tell You Why’ is basically – you’re not alone, we’ve all been there and know the way out attitude.

The light tone masks some of the serious subjects, and there’s a couple of things missing that perhaps she could cover in a future volume. (I know I’d have found something about recognising emotional abuse helpful when I was in my twenties.) But this is nit picking and on the whole, I thought this was a useful addition to the canon of advice lit out there. Buy it for the twenty-somethings or nearly twenty-somethings you know.

How to Be a Grown Up by Daisy Buchanan is published on 6 April 2017 by Headline Books. Thanks to Headline (and Georgina Moore) for the review copy.