Fiction Ed’s Book Review

Our Fiction Editor, Shirley, takes us through another book review!

I’ve loved recent books with an awkward heroine. Books like Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, and Turtles All The Way Down by John Green. So when I read this description of The Cactus, the debut novel of Sarah Haywood, I was intrigued enough to give it a go:

“Meet Susan. Susan loves her flat-for-one in Clapham, her logical spread-sheet based job. She can be more than a little prickly. Her colleagues find her difficult and rather odd.”

See? It sounds like she’ll be the same kind of awkward but endearing character as Eleanor Oliphant and Aza in Turtles.

It also has a beautiful cover, with a soft pink shiny panel set against that montage of flowering cactus. It’s a super cover that really sells the book. My photo doesn’t quite do it justice.

Would Susan win me Over?

But, going back to that notion I had that Susan would be endearing – she’s not. Or at least, she hadn’t become so by 100 pages in (of 369). That’s when I gave up.

For those 100 pages she had been very prickly indeed, as billed. And to be fair it’s with good cause: her mother has just died, her brother is infuriating, her life is unravelling. And yet with all of that, I should have felt sympathy for her, shouldn’t I, in spite of the prickles. But I didn’t. And to me, that’s the major unfortunate flaw in this book. I couldn’t care enough about Susan to see how she softened and blossomed through the remaining 269 pages.

I did skip to the end to see if the story panned out how I anticipated, and it did, so I’m not left hanging, but I didn’t care enough to read how we got there, not with so many other terrific books waiting to be discovered.


Get your copy of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman or Turtles All The Way Down by John Green or try The Cactus by Sarah Haywood. 

Shirley Blair

Fiction Ed Shirley’s been with the “Friend” since 2007 and calls it her dream job because she gets to read fiction all day every day. Hobbies? Well, that would be reading! She also enjoys writing fiction when she has time, long walks, travel, and watching Scandi thrillers on TV.