It’s Day One of the Blog Tour for The Four of Us, and thanks to the wonderful invention that is ‘Load Shedding’ in Johannesburg, I wasn’t able to post this earlier! But yay … finally, we have electricity, so here we go …
As much as I say I don’t like girly books (see, I avoided using that term I hate), and I don’t particularly do romance novels either, I do love books about friendships. Books about friends, groups of friends, gossipy type books, friends who fall out and then realise they can’t live without each other … I love all of them. And if they’re set in Ireland … well … bring it on!!
So The Four of Us pretty much ticks all the boxes for me. Ok, it’s set in Northern Ireland, which is close enough to Ireland for me! What’s with the whole Irish thing, I hear you ask? I can’t really tell you. I just love all things Irish – and when it comes to the way Irish books are written, and the way their characters come to life, they have a certain ‘je ne sais quois’ * (yes, I’m well aware that’s not Irish at all!)
Christine, Colette and Pippa are shocked when Lucy – quiet, timid Lucy who always goes along with whatever the other three say and do – announces that she thinks they need a break from each other. Of course Lucy has her reasons for wanting some time out from the other three, and apart from her very apparent reason, is the fact that they’d actually treated her quite shoddily. But what I didn’t actually understand was why the other girls had to take a break from each other – they didn’t seem to cotton on to that either. So when Lucy says she needs a break from them, they all immediately take offence, as we girls tend to do and take everything completely out of proportion, get their backs up with everyone and everything and cut themselves off from each other entirely!
What follows is standard practice: you can’t take it back, even when you realise you’ve made a mistake; you’re desperate to unburden yourself of the secrets you’ve been keeping up until now but suddenly, there’s nobody to offload to; your partner just doesn’t understand your relationship with your besties – never has, never will. There are misunderstandings, mishaps, meanderings, mess-ups and tons of malarkey! It’s bloody marvelous – not so much for those involved, you understand – but for the reader it’s a right cringe-worthy ‘thank God that’s not me’ kind of read!
You’ll find yourself unconsciously comparing everyone in your life to Toner’s character’s, whether it’s Pippa, and her attempts to keep up with her much younger colleagues, Christine with her stationery and organisation obsession (stand up Marie Kondo!), Colette with her Boutye account (I’m guessing that’s like Tinder) and Lucy, who’s really a bit of a closed book because her so-called best friends are actually so self-involved they never take the time to find out much about her. Come on now, admit it – you all have ‘that’ friend who’s always there for you and who you totally take for granted. Better watch out – those are the ones who’ll shock you the most!
Yes, Áine Toner has written an insightful, sensitive book about the nature of female friendship and the different types of friends we need for the varying stages of our lives, and who we need at the same stage of our lives but who we turn to for the numerous roles they fill. One doesn’t necessarily cancel out the others. They’re all needed and all very much required. Without them, the puzzle of our lives is incomplete.
4 stars for this one, which I highly recommend.
* There’s a particular conversation between Christine and her mother-in-law that is screamingly hilarious – don’t ask, you’ll know it when you get to it!
About the Author
Award winning editor Áine Toner has been at the helm of Ireland’s Woman’s Way magazine since 2008 and is also editorial director of Irish Tatler Man magazine. A Belfast native who lives in Dublin, her previous jobs included working for BBC Northern Ireland and a host of daily and local newspapers and magazines.
She grew up in a house where books were very important and it was no surprise her academic life and career led to be constantly surrounded by words. She loves how the right phrasing can make a story come alive on a page.
Áine has significant TV and radio experience, regularly contributing as a panellist on topics such as health, fashion, beauty, books and the soaps. She can be found on Twitter at @aineltoner where she uploads musings on television, stationery, books and cake.
Outside of journalism, she has been published in short story anthologies. Let’s Talk About Six is her first novel.
Thank you to Tracy Fenton of Compulsive Readers, and to Manatee Books for inviting me along. Follow the blog tour and see what these bloggers have to say about The Four of Us …