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Book Review: ‘What A Way to Go’ by Julia Forster

whatawaytogo_cover_August1988. 12-year-old Harper Richardson’s parents are divorced. Her mum got custody of her, the Mini, and five hundred tins of baked beans. Her dad got a mouldering cottage in a Midlands backwater village and default membership of the Lone Rangers single parents’ club. Harper got questionable dress sense, a zest for life, two gerbils, and her Chambers dictionary, and the responsibility of fixing her parents’ broken hearts…

Set against a backdrop of high hairdos and higher interest rates, pop music and puberty, divorce and death, What a Way to Go is a warm, wise and witty tale of one girl tackling the business of growing up while those around her try not to fall apart.

The writing is short, quirky and full of feeling, it sets the stage perfectly for what is to come. 12 year old Harper is different, her friends include her dictionary, a lady riddled with dementia, and the (dead) occupants of a graveyard. Harper is a modern day Cassandra Mortmain, for anyone who loved I Capture the Castle. It is a brilliant exploration of the journey from teenager to adult, and a wonderful evocation of Britain in the eighties.  Julia Forster writes with a light, witty touch, however deeper darker tones lie in wait. What a Way To Go touches on pain, death and sadness, yet the unpredictable, entertaining and often ludicrous side of life shines through, this is a wonderfully engaging debut, and I highly recommend it.

Emma Corfield-Walters

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