Saturday, 10 August 2013

Review: Welcome to Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop of Dreams - Jenny Colgan

Were you a sherbet lemon or chocolate lime fan? Soft chewy ones or hard boiled sweeties (you do get more for your money that way)? The jangle of your pocket money . . . the rustle of the pink and green striped paper bag . . . 
Rosie Hopkins thinks leaving her busy London life, and her boyfriend Gerard, to sort out her elderly Aunt Lilian s sweetshop in a small country village is going to be dull. Boy, is she wrong. 
Lilian Hopkins has spent her life running Lipton s sweetshop, through wartime and family feuds. As she struggles with the idea that it might finally be time to settle up, she also wrestles with the secret history hidden behind the jars of beautifully coloured sweets.
Welcome to Rosie Hopkins Sweetshop of Dreams, a novel, with recipes.

Warning: Do not read this novel if you are on any sort of diet or health kick. Seriously.

Back in May Welcome to Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop of Dreams (let's just call it Sweet Shop for short) won the Romance Novelists' Association's Romantic Novel of the Year, 2013, and with an accolade like that you can't not pick up this calorie packed indulgence.

The only real way I can think of describing Colgan's book is delightful, but I am afraid that that makes it come across as absurdly twee and saccharine (I really don't want to say sweet) when it isn't at all. Sweet Shop definitely has hidden depths.

Rosie is cajoled into leaving her somewhat anticlimactic London life to visit and care for her Great Aunt Lilian. Rosie is your somewhat typical 'Bridget Jones' character; thirty-something, bored and disenchanted with her job and life in general. Juxtaposed with Rosie's somewhat monochrome existence is the riotous colour recollection of Lillian's dramatic World War adolescence. Now normally I'm not one for the flashback side plot within books but I must admit that Lillian's story grabbed me as much as, and even sometimes more so, than Rosie's. Lillian is a wonderful secondary character, she is most assuredly not growing old gracefully, fighting tooth and nail to hold on to her independence; she's feisty, stubborn and sharp tongued.

Lipton, possibly the most adorable village ever, is full of a delightful cast of characters and, apparently, a whole host of single, good looking men from the jovial Moray to flirtatious Jake and the Mr Rochester-esque Stephen. Rosie's journey throughout the book is funny and insightful. Rosie is definitely one of those heroines who whirls into your life and encourages you to question your own decisions and your own situation. She's also one of those wonderfully witty, self deprecating and down-to-earth heroines you want to sit down with and share a bag of chocolate eclairs.

Sweet Shop is nothing if not a life affirming novel. Lillian teaches Rosie, and us, to grab life and stop letting it pass us by while she herself gradually learns that we all need a little help sometimes. I cannot recommend this book enough; it's the perfect treat on a late summer evening. Before you start though, I do suggest you take a trip to your local sweetshop before hand, it'll save a desperate scramble for some cherry lips or pear drops halfway through the book.

The sequel, Christmas at Rosie Hopkins' Sweetshop is due for publication on 7th November, 2013, I've definitely added this to my 'can't wait list'.

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