Book review – The Making of Us by Lisa Jewell

The Making of Us coverReviewed by Beccy Downes.

This is the first of Lisa Jewell’s books that I’ve read and although it doesn’t quite have the urgency of the work of some other authors of contemporary women’s literature (Marian Keyes for example), it is well worth a read.

Right from the start we’re pulled into the stories of four main characters through their interwoven narratives:

Lydia – a rich and successful thirty-something, whose humble past makes her believe she doesn’t deserve it; Robyn – a teenage ‘princess’ who’s got it all planned out, and is secretly convinced she may well be the most beautiful girl in the world; Dean – a young waster whose life falls to pieces when his baby is born, and Maggie – a divorcee who falls in love with the attractive and mysterious Daniel Blanchard, only to discovers that romance is not on the cards after all.They all seem very different, each in their own little corners of the world, but their lives are  linked by an invisible bond which, one-by-one, they set out to investigate in the hope that the answers will help them to make decisions and decipher the problems and ‘unfinished business’ in their lives.

The bond that the story is founded on is the widespread impact of sperm donation. It’s not the ethics (which admittedly would be a little too political for a story like this, although there is a nod to it in the very first chapter), but the after-effects we’re asked to consider – in particular, how far do genetics go towards shaping a person’s identity?

For me the story seemed to begin as human interest and end up as something very different, although the journey itself was largely an enjoyable one. I began by judging the characters and ended up rooting for them.

The plot twists along the way were not entirely surprising, but to me, that didn’t really matter because of the rich observations – for example, I liked the way that the author styled each character’s narrative slightly differently; the age-specific  language used by some character, down to the sometimes oppostional ideals of people from different backgrounds.

If I has one issue with The Making of Us, it was that there was almost too much for one story – I could have read a lot more about each of the main characters separately, and also some of the other characters to whom we’re introduced through the course of the book. I have to admit that when I’d finished the book, I was curious as to how they all got on after it had ended.

However, as commentary on a theme, it does pose some interesting questions about where we get our sense of belonging from, and it also explicitly reminds us (as the very best women’s literature of this type is so good at doing) of how the power of love can inspire change in our own, and other people’s, lives.

The Making of Us by Lisa Jewell is available to buy from Amazon.

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