It arrived in the post, and my heart sank when I felt its weight, when I opened the padded envelope and discovered 500+ pages. Accepting a book review assignment seemed a nice idea at the time, but for this incredibly slow reader who has, once again, over-committed herself to various other projects this summer, it seemed unmanageable within the allotted time frame.
Fortunately, we were about to go on holiday – and, never one to turn down a challenge, I worked it out at four chapters a day. Easy. If I just put my head down and did it, I’d get there. Well, what do you know? I’d devoured the whole thing in five days.
And really that should be all you need to know to make you rush off and buy your copy straight away. But I think you probably deserve a little more, so here goes…
The One plus One is an incredibly absorbing novel. It’s about a man and a woman, whose poles-apart lives are thrown together in a series of bizarre coincidences. It’s about the road trip to end all road trips. It’s about a little girl who whizzes through Maths equations like she’s an undergrad. It’s about a teenage boy struggling to find his identity. It’s about single parenthood, adoptive parenthood, and parenthood in general. Overall, though, the story is one of unwavering hope. The many struggles, obstacles, setbacks and lows which pervade the story serve only to reinforce the highs when they happen – and, ultimately, the book leaves you joyful in its tale of good overcoming evil.
This book is about contrast. There are the obvious ones (she works two jobs and lives on a council estate, he has a well-paid job in the city) but these sit neatly alongside more subtle ones. For example, the place where she lives, works and feels at home is the place where he has his second home, spending only small fractions of the year there. Moyes carefully describes the same town as both friendly/familiar and cold/shabby, depending on whose perspective you’re reading (each chapter is written from a different character’s perspective). On this point, if I were to make any criticism of the book, it would be that these perspectives could be slightly more contrasted – but, as they’re all written in the third person, I imagine that subtlety was the aim, and I appreciated the lack of crassness in switching voices.
An expert storyteller, Moyes weaves twists and turns to the plot, rounding each character with an expansive insight into their life and history. She articulates things so clearly and brilliantly that one cannot fail to identify them as snatches from one’s own life. We’ve all met people like the ones in the book – we all know of the places she describes. The book is steeped in reality, and yet has enough ‘would-never-happen-in-real-life’-type fantasy to transport you to another place. I loved this book, and I loved the people in it – I didn’t want it to end. (Fortunately, there was another Jojo Moyes novel at the house we were staying in, so I moved speedily on to that one, to ease the pain…)
With my very slow reading speed (I have an irritating need to speak the words out in my head as I read them), and parenthood limiting the disposable time in which to read, I have taken to attacking only those books which I expect to be life changing and thought-provoking. Looking back over the last year, I’ve read a book which totally changed my attitude to money, another which made me understand better the pitfalls of American evangelicalism, and another which was a fairly heavy theology of adoption. What I’ve been missing, I think, is that novels too can change your life. Novels can make you think, make you re-assess, make you see where you’ve been in error. The One plus One is certainly one of these sorts of novels, cathartic in its ability to re-align your thoughts about a whole number of issues – and I’m so glad someone made me read it.
This book was reviewed for Mumsnet, who kindly sent me a complimentary copy. All views, however, are my own. Want to read what the other Mumsnet reviewers thought of it? Click here.