'Judy married Oliver and discarded her name without a second thought. She promised to love and honour him, and he promised to do all kinds of things until death parted them. Some years passed .....'
Judy Taylor married the first man who asked her, lives in the neighbourhood where she spent her uneventful childhood and adolescence, and still has the same friends she meet in primary school. You could say she is settled and secure. Until the day she discovers a hard lump.
Following a series of nerve-racking tests, she's told that 'everything is absolutely normal'. But instead of the anticipated wave of relief, Judy realises that 'absolutely normal' is absolutely not what she wants. Deciding to stop taking the path of least resistance, she leaves her dependable husband and shocked friends behind, and embarks on a new life of uncertainty in Edinburgh. But is it too late to start again, and will she find what she's looking for?
The Emergence of Judy Taylor is Angela Jackson's debut novel, the paperback edition is published by Canvas (Constable & Robinson) on 21 November 2013. At the time of writing the Kindle edition is available for just 35p.
With its enigmatic cover that gives nothing away and the cover quote 'Heart-wrenching yet dryly funny', this is a novel that I was intrigued by. I wasn't sure of the genre, or who the book is marketed at.
After finishing the story, I can honestly say that this story should appeal to any reader - male or female, single or married. Although the lead character is female and the central theme is of relationships, this is a book that deals with the uncertainties in life, and cleverly approaches the hidden insecurities that many of us have, and how lives and worlds can change dramatically when one person is honest, both with themselves and with the others around them.
Judy Taylor and her husband Oliver appear, to their friends and family, to be happy. It is a potentially life-changing incident that makes Judy take a long, hard and honest look at her life. Her sudden realisation that this is not what she wants hits her hard. She wants something else, but Judy doesn't really know what that something else it. Her decision to leave Oliver and make a new life for herself in Edinburgh shocks everyone associated with her. Oliver is angry and doesn't understand, her brother thinks she is selfish, her Mother is left to cope with her Father's steady decline into ill-health.
Judy can appear to readers to be selfish and ungrateful, but there are parts of her character and her situation that will probably really resonate with many of us. Judy's brutal honesty, with herself and with the other characters does not make her the most likeable of characters and the reader could get annoyed by her and her actions, but she is a strong character and is determined that whatever the outcome, she will take this journey.
The Emergence of Judy Taylor is a very accomplished novel. Angela Jackson takes the reader through the sometimes painful steps that Judy takes. This is not a fast-paced, action packed story. It is a slow uncovering of years of disenchantment, of facing up to reality and of dealing with how one's actions can hurt others whilst healing oneself.
I was very impressed by the sensitivity of the writing. This is a powerful and often very moving story with touches of dry humour and some fabulous characters.
My thanks to Saskia from Canvas who sent my copy for review.
Angela Jackson was recently named one of UNESCO City of Literature's emerging writers, is a coach and lecturer in Psychology and Education, and runs the course 'Living Happily' at Edinburgh University. She's written features for newspapers inluding the Guardian and Independent. Angela lives in Edinburgh and The Emergence of Judy Taylor is her first novel.
For more information visit www.angela-jackson.com, or follow Angela on Twitter @AngelaJ