THE SECOND CHANCE HOLIDAY CLUB
Evelyn Pringle isn’t the sort to make rash decisions. Or any decisions, really – she’s always left that sort of thing up to her husband. But he’s been found dead, wearing his best suit, with a diamond ring in his pocket that doesn’t fit her.
When Evelyn finds a letter addressed to a woman on the Isle of Wight, she decides to deliver it. By hand.
So begins a very unusual holiday, and an adventure no one could have predicted – least of all Evelyn herself.
With the help of some unexpected new friends, and a little effort on her part, Evelyn discovers that it is never too late to have a second chance at life and forge friendships that are well-worth living for.
Kate Galley is a debut author who lives in Buckinghamshire with her family and pets.
Much of Kate’s inspiration comes from the many varied lives of her clients as a mobile hairdresser.
The idea for this book stemmed from one woman’s tale of a hilarious Christmas coach trip.
I’m kneeling on the floor in my husband’s study. My ancient knees are arguing with each other in the deep pile carpet while my fingers tap their way along the underside of his desk, as if I’m playing a soundless piano.
“Maybe she thought she was protecting you by keeping quiet. Sometimes people do the wrong thing for the right reason”
“What was it Doctor Graham once told me? ‘It’s not good to watch life from the sidelines.’ It’s this thought that propels me across the road. I can’t go back next week and tell the doctor I gave up; it would be humiliating”
“It’s odd to be huddled in the corner with these two, near strangers, both wanting to hear what I have to say. People tend to talk at me these days; they don’t often listen. I take a breath and before I can change my mind, I allow the words to tumble from my mouth”
“I look at my companions and see the possibility of a different sort of life; one filled with friendship and sharing. I could step out of the darkness I’ve built around myself and embrace something new, but perhaps that’s the wine talking”
“Well, I could hang it on the wall at home to remind myself of this eventful trip. Sometimes you need to think about making new memories,” she says, as if she’s read my mind. “It’s painful, but it has to be done”
“Everybody loved Tony Pringle; he was charming and handsome, and he could make you feel like the most important person in the world. He could also make you feel as if you mattered so little to him that he could brush you aside in favour of a new car, a new venture – in fact, anything new.”
“It’s never too late to change the habits of a lifetime…”
This is another of those books I never really thought I would enjoy anything like as much as I did. However, I have no hesitation in awarding this one the full five stars and I would definitely never have guessed that it was a debut novel written by a new author. The messaging was discreet, yet there for all to see. The humour was subtle, but it still made me laugh out loud quite often. And when, despite the more advanced years of Evelyn over myself, I was a little perturbed to find myself comparing many of her quirky and often downright thoughtless traits; and sharp, acerbic, often insulting comments, with my own mannerisms, I came away almost determined to change my inbuilt habits of a lifetime – Am I really like that!
I am only going to divulge the very bare bones of a storyline which offers so much entertainment, building of friendships, new personal beginnings and laying of ghosts to rest… and even a little breaking and entering!
Evelyn had been married to Tony Pringle for many decades, when he is found dead inside his car, apparently the victim of a sudden heart attack. Theirs had not been a particularly happy marriage, as, given the prevailing circumstances, it had been rather forced upon a young and reluctant Tony by his family, very much against his wishes. Their son, Stephen, did unite them as a family for a short period, however, following his sudden and untimely death aged just seven, a distance between them was established which neither had the will or inclination to try and reconcile. Tony, as much as he gave off the air of being the successful businessman, was in fact, living off Evelyn’s wealth and therefore never had any intention of leaving her, or giving her her freedom. She in turn, relied heavily on Tony to organise, run and maintain the outward appearance of their lives, accepting the many ‘business trips’ he took, for what they were, or rather what she chose to close her eyes and mind to, for a quiet life.
When his body is recovered, an item of jewellery found in his possession, together with travel documents, makes it clear that he was about to take a trip, although this was news to Evelyn, who does some investigating of her own and discovers in Tony’s home office, a letter and address for a woman on the Isle of Wight. It is perfectly obvious that they were more than just good friends, although Tony had been keeping an even bigger and more terrible secret from everyone, which should she confront his mystery paramour with the information, might blow up in her face spectacularly! Evelyn, who doesn’t drive, has no friends except for her much younger and garrulous sister Carol and her family, and has never been further than the local shopping centre on the bus by herself, amazingly only prevaricates for a few days before deciding to deliver the ring to Tony’s mystery woman, in person. As Tony’s death was so recent and Christmas is only days away, Carol is definitely nonplussed when Evelyn announces that she will not be joining them for the festive period, but is instead taking a ‘turkey and tinsel’ coach trip to the Isle of Wight for a few days.
Much as a very cynical Evelyn had predicted, the trip itself is a catalogue of disasters right from the outset; from the over friendly and definitely over optimistic driver Alan; to the ebullience of her two immediate travelling companions Cynthia and Joy, who although much the same age as herself certainly don’t intend to let the grass grow under their feet and age gracefully; even down to the literally do-it-yourself, dingy hotel experience into which the entire coachload is plunged. Cynthia proves herself to be a consummate organiser, whilst Joy is able to command a kitchen and prepare meals befitting the season, with the help of four very young trainee staff members who have decided to remain and help salvage some vestige of seasonal cheer for this coach load of misery. It seems that all Evelyn manages to do really well – is complain about everything and snipe at everyone! Cynthia isn’t prepared to put up with Evelyn’s morose behaviour for the entire holiday, so she and Joy set about getting to the real reason for her making the trip in the first place. However, in the course of doing so, a surprisingly perceptive Evelyn works out that she is not the only one with a secret and as a tacit understanding develops that all three can be trusted with each others hidden truths, one by one they open up, in a cathartic release of pent up feelings and emotions, although each of them still has amends to make and bridges to build with friends and family back home.
Cynthia is probably the most emotional of the group, despite the ‘public face’ she wears, although it transpires that she is also the one who knows what she wants when she sees it and is prepared to move heaven and earth to get it. Joy has a much more serious problem on her hands, which will ultimately mean a delayed trip home for the three unlikely new friends, as they must wait for Joy to finish ‘helping the police with their enquiries’. Evelyn has a much more tricky visit to make to Tony’s mystery lady friend Sarah, although even she is totally unprepared for the complexity of a situation which is even worse than she could have imagined. Her anger dissipates in light of the sheer magnitude of Tony’s duplicity and lies, with her rather new and unfamiliar mellow approach to a problem, taking over. After a few false starts, some straight talking leaves the air clear and Evelyn surprises even herself with the decisions she reaches. She leaves a struggling, hard-working mother with a whole new start ahead of her and a young hotel trainee happily contemplating his future as a potential top chef. Whilst they will never become bosom friends, Evelyn and Sarah will always have a shared past and a brighter future in common.
By the time they are all finally free to go home, the New Year has already been rung in, so with a rallying ‘all for one and one for all’ agreement, the three new besties resolve to keep in touch and visit often, leaving a much changed and improved Evelyn to do some straight talking with Carol, in the hope of building bridges and tearing down some of the walls she had built around herself. Carol has a couple more revelations for Evelyn, but these she is now well able to take in her stride, much to Carol’s surprise. So whilst forgiveness for Tony is never going to be a realistic option, a calm sense of closure and laying ghosts to rest, makes Eleanor’s transformation complete. Oh! – and talking of walls. There is going to be one very happy and surprised young travel agent soon.
Some wonderfully fluent and evocative writing, complemented this beautifully textured, fast-paced, multi-layered storyline, which is narrated in the first person by Evelyn herself. Whilst the physical footprint the story occupies, is quite finely focussed, the narrative about specific places is very descriptive with good spatial awareness, although for any seriously confirmed ‘armchair travellers’ among you, this one might be a little light on location. But believe me, this was one unique hotel stay and botched house-breaking episode, which I could visualise in all its ‘laugh or it will make you cry’ moments.
This was a perceptive and poignant story about moving on, of new beginnings and making fresh starts, with its focus undoubtedly concentrated on the storyline and the cast of characters who occupied its space. The interactions between them as individuals and with the wider community. Their personalities and how a little understanding and compassion, often from complete strangers, could change their perspectives on life. Strange locations and unexpected circumstances only served to help create the bonds which would weave them together and re-define them, creating many immersive and memorable moments which they would never forget.
The three main protagonists Cynthia, Joy and Evelyn, represent a complex jigsaw of vulnerable human emotions, which are laid bare when the fragility of the lines between life and death, defeat and survival, love and hate, trust and duplicity, are drawn. However a raw addictive passion and the will to survive, overcomes all the odds stacked against them, making them stronger, determined to be true to themselves, and more united as time goes on. They brought out both the best and the worse in each other and the energy between them was genuine, believable, engaging and authentic to the roles created for them by the author, with the synergy between them obvious to see.
The trauma of grief and loss and the long term effects it can have on mental health is eased when their respective experiences are shared and brought out into open discussion, which for Evelyn in particular, is something which needed to have happened many years ago and spurs her on to seek a spell of professional counselling. Whilst this may not have made her relationship with Tony any easier, they may have been able to help each other overcome their loss, rather than Evelyn retreating further and further into herself, wrapping a blanket of guilt and shame around herself, thus making the gulf between them even wider.
Maybe the ending wasn’t quite as I had expected it to be, but what always makes reading such a wonderful experience for me, is that with each and every new book, I am taken on a unique and individual journey, by authors who fire my imagination, stir my emotions and stimulate my senses. This story was definitely one of a kind, having the power to evoke so many feelings, that I’m sure I won’t have felt the same way about it as the last reader, nor the next, so I can only recommend that you read The Second Chance Holiday Club for yourself and see where your journey leads you!
As one of my fellow bloggers so aptly wrote: “Sometimes reading something different is like a breath of fresh air”. Thank you, Shirley, I couldn’t agree more!
A complimentary kindle download of this book was made available for review by publishers Head of Zeus / Aria Fiction; and Netgalley
Any thoughts or comments are my own personal opinion and I am in no way being monetarily compensated for this, or any other article which promotes this book or its author.
I personally do not agree with ‘rating’ a book, as the overall experience is all a matter of personal taste, which varies from reader to reader. However some review sites do demand a rating value, so when this review is posted to such a site, it will attract a well deserved 5 out of 5 stars!
Thank you so much for taking time to read my review, I appreciate your support