Wednesday, 13 November 2019

On The Up by Alice O'Keeffe BLOG TOUR @AliceOKeeffe @JennyPlatt90 @hodderbooks @coronetbooks #OnTheUp

By reading Style magazine, I was training myself not to want things. It was going quite well. I had already found that I did not want a pair of Yves Saint Laurent mules, a chandelier made from plastic antlers, or a diamond-encrusted necklace in the shape of a pineapple. I was still working on not wanting a fitted farmhouse kitchen in warm wood.
Sylvia lives in a flat on a council estate with her not-quite-husband Obe and their two young children. She dreams of buying a house on a leafy street like the one she grew up in. If she closes her eyes, she can see it all so clearly: the stripped floorboards, the wisteria growing around the door...
It's not ideal that she's about to be made redundant, or that Obe, a playworker, is never going to earn more than the minimum wage. As sleep deprivation sets in, and the RnB downstairs gets ever louder, Sylvia's life starts to unravel.
But when the estate is earmarked for redevelopment, the threat to her community gives Sylvia a renewed sense of purpose. With a bit of help from her activist sister, and her film-maker friend Frankie, she's ready to take a stand for what she believes in.
Warm, witty and brilliantly observed, On the Up is about relationships and community, finding a way through the tough times, and figuring out what's really worth fighting for.

On The Up by Alice O'Keeffe is published in hardback by Coronet / Hodder Books on 14 November. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review and who invited me to take part on this Blog Tour.

I remember reading about On The Up in The Bookseller earlier this year and thought then that it sounded like my sort of read. I was delighted when I was offered the chance to read a pre-publication copy and even more delighted to find that I was right. It's such a fabulous story; the characters are large and warm and the narrative is absolutely perfect. I read this in just over a day, hardly putting it down at all.

Sylvia and Obe are almost-married. They live in a poky council flat on a busy estate with their two small children; The Toddler (aka Larkin), and That Baby (aka Eliot). Theirs is an accidental family; two children, much loved, but unplanned, and signalling the end to Sylvia's Plan for life.

Her latest plan is to get off the estate. The leave their tiny flat behind and live on a long road with trees and gardens; in a house with space and light. Much like the house that she grew up in. It is this alternative plan that forms the basis for the story, but there is so much more going on.

This is a delicately, often hilariously funny depiction of modern day life for a young family with very little money. It concentrates on the dreams for the future, and the hopes of the past, and what has been lost.

Alice O'Keeffe's character building is really quite wonderful. I adored Sylvia and whilst she and I have nothing in common, I really could empathise with her, and who she felt. Obe is a laid-back guy who tends not to worry; I can understand why he would drive Sylvia mad sometimes, but he's basically a good, kind bloke who loves his family, and ultimately would do anything for them.

The author's supporting cast of characters are just as perfect, and I had a special soft spot for Bill; the Anti Social Behaviour Officer for the local council who becomes much more to Sylvia than a council official. 

On The Up is a story of family, community and hope. It is cheering and uplifting with characters who begin to feel like actual friends. A sparkling debut, I'm looking forward to reading more from this author in the future.

Alice O'Keeffe is a freelance writer and journalist. 
She was deputy editor of the Guardian's Saturday Review section, and writes book reviews, interviews and features for the Guardian, Observer and New Statesman. 
She has been a speechwriter at the Department for Education and literary programmer at the Brighton Festival. 
Alice lives in Brighton with her husband and two children.

Twitter @AliceOKeeffe

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