What if your estate agent could find you not just your perfect house, but your perfect job, your perfect partner... your perfect new life? Meet Iris Atkins.
On paper, Iris is an estate agent, but she's not just good at finding suitable houses for her clients. In fact, she has a gift: Iris is able to see into their lives and understand exactly what is missing and what they need - not just in bricks-and-mortar terms either.
Of course, concentrating so much on fixing other people's problems doesn't leave much time for examining your own. Over the course of one whirlwind year Iris discovers that while she may know what's best for everyone else, she doesn't necessarily know what's best for herself - and what she finds out could make her happier than she'd ever dreamed.
Love, or Nearest Offer by Adele Geras is published in paperback by Quercus on 1 September 2016.
Over the years, I've read quite a few of Adele Geras' books, both her adult stories and her young adult books, and have always enjoyed them. I think my favourites have been Hester's Story and her young adult book Ithaka.
Love, or Nearest Offer is a wonderfully structured story; Iris is an estate agent, she's very good at her job. She doesn't just find houses for people, she really cares about them. Iris has a knack of knowing exactly which property will suit her client, even if at first, they can't quite see it for themselves.
Told in multiple voices, the author has cleverly woven the stories of the clients around Iris, she's the lynch-pin that holds them all, very firmly together.
The beauty of this book is the diverse cast of characters. Old and young play out their tales very ably alongside each other and the author skillfully creates each and every one of them. From the elderly, but quite fabulous Georgie down to toddler Zac, each one has their own voice and their own part to play.
At its heart, Love, or Nearest Offer is a love story, with a modern twist. It's the perfect pick-me-up, it's a story that has the feel-good factor. It's wonderfully written, with fabulous characters. I enjoyed it very much.
My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.
I'm delighted to welcome Adele Geras to Random Things today. She's sharing the books that have left a lasting impression on her life for the My Life In Books series.
My Life In Books ~ Adele Geras
If you ask ten women writers what their favourite book was when they were children, eight will say Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I’m with the majority here. Jo March, even though she did have a tendency to climb trees which I couldn’t ever emulate, was my heroine for ages and even today I think she’s marvellous….an example to us all. Alcott had to buckle down and write to pay the bills and I admire this work ethic and dedication. I also loved Jo for her romantic side and I’m sure I’m not alone in wishing that she could have ended up with Laurie. I have ambivalent feelings about Professor Behr! But Jo wasn’t the only reason to love Little Women. I’m an only child and this depiction of the intimate life of four affectionate sisters was my idea of heaven.
There was another ‘best book’ read at about the same time which had a profound effect on me and that was Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield. I’ve always wanted to perform and many of my childhood games with my friends were versions of: “Let’s do the show right here!” This superb book had both of the things I loved most: performance and sisters, albeit not related by blood in this case. How I suffered and hoped with all of them! Their triumphs were mine and so were their disappointments. I’ve written about putting on a play myself in a book called HAPPY ENDINGS because I love novels about people putting on some kind of a show. It can be film, or television or pageant and I will be there, lapping it up. HAPPY ENDINGS is being reissued in the USA next year…it’s about some young people putting on Chekhov’s Three Sisters.
When I was older, and at Roedean School in Brighton, the books that had the greatest effect on me and which also provided the most enormous pleasure were the Whiteoaks novels by Mazo de la Roche. It’s not a name you hear mentioned nowadays and I haven’t read her again since I grew up, but when I was fourteen, the story of the Whiteoaks family who lived in Canada in a house called Jalna kept me absorbed, thrilled, enraptured for days and weeks. I can’t remember exactly how many novels there were in the series but it was a good few. They acted like a soap opera for us in the days before soaps appeared on television. Renny's Daughter was my favourite. Rennie was one of the sons of the family and he had red hair. I’ve had a partiality for redheads ever since, both men and women. A great many of my books have red-headed heroines and I have written quite a few novels where the Big House is one of the main elements of the story: FACING THE LIGHT and COVER YOUR EYES are both very much bound up with where they are set, and so is an old YA book of mine called SILENT SNOW, SECRET SNOW. I’m fascinated by properties in general and though there’s not one single house involved, my latest novel, LOVE OR NEAREST OFFER, is about people finding homes they can love.
At school, we studied the classic novels of the English canon and I fell in love with Jane Austen. If I had to choose one to go to a Desert Island with, I might choose Emma but Austen only wrote six novels and they’re all short so I’d really like to take the whole lot.
There’s a question that’s often asked by interviewers: What novel would you like to have written? My answer to that is: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. This seems to me to have everything that you could wish for in a novel: admirable and eloquent heroine, dark and moody hero, dramatic setting, and a rags to riches storyline with a happy ending that has in it, nevertheless, an element of tragedy. I adore this novel. I’ve read it several times and it’s a different book depending on your age. The same, of course, is true of Jane Austen and I feel strongly that Pride and Prejudice is often given to readers who are far too young to appreciate its subtleties.
At St Hilda’s College, Oxford, I read French and Spanish. I did a Special Paper on A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu byMarcel Proust. This work is so long that I retreated to my bed to read it. It took me almost a week. Well, Marcel himself actually WROTE it in bed, so I figured that was only right and proper. It’s the most astonishing work of art. You enter Marcel’s world and your own is never the same as a consequence. It truly does alter the way you look at everything and it’s more like a cathedral than a book. You walk around it and see different aspects depending on what you’ve read so far….and it’s the sort of novel which when you’ve finished it, you see that you have to read it all over again, knowing what you know now…a masterpiece that repays the work and the length and opens out before you the whole of a society that I fell in love with in 1965 and have loved ever since: late 19th century Paris, La Belle Epoque. I love the fashions, the art, the literature, everything about this period. It’s about aristocrats, courtesans, lovers, painters, writers, the whole of the ‘beau monde’ and it exposes snobberies, slights, jealousies and sexual shenanigans of every sort. I revelled in it as I read. A word of warning: you have not to be in a hurry to read the whole thing. It takes its time and that famous first sentence which goes on for pages? You have to submit to it and go with the flow. Perhaps a curative dose of Hemingway straight afterwards would be a good palate cleanser!
In adult life, I’ve loved detective stories, thrillers, suspense novels and so forth. It started with Agatha Christie when I was about ten, and went on from there. There are many, many writers I enjoy enormously but if I’m picking one, it has to be the late Ruth Rendell, and especially when she was writing under her pseudonym, Barbara Vine. Many of the Vine novels are quite brilliant but my favourite, if I had to choose one, is the first, A Dark Adapted Eye. Read that and you will go on, I promise, to read all the rest. They are quite superb.
I do sometimes read non-fiction and the book that means most to me which isn’t a novel is Primo Levi’s If This Is A Man. Reading it, and also The Drowned and the Saved ought to be compulsory.
I can’t write a piece like this and leave out Dorothy Whipple. She is quite amazing and ought to be MUCH better known. All her books are published by Persephone Books in their beautiful, dove grey jacketed editions. Buy one and I guarantee you will love it. Try my favourite Someone at a Distance but all of them are quite wonderful.
Finally, I would like to highlight some books I’ve read recently which show off the talents of some of the very best living writers. First comes Anne Tyler, closely followed by Elizabeth Strout. Tyler’s Vinegar Girl ( a version of Taming of the Shrew) is both funny and touching and has just come out in hardback. She’s the Queen of the Domestic Novel and her families are as mad and exasperating as your own, and you’ll love them just as much, too. Strout is the author of Olive Kitteridge and I’m mentioning this novel of hers rather than any of the others because there is also a terrific tv version of the story starring Frances McDormand. Then there is the quietly brilliant short novel by Rose Tremain, The Gustav Sonata, which is sad and clever and most unusual.
I feel bad about everyone I’ve left out: dozens and dozens of superb books and writers I’ve not even mentioned….and those I’m still in the process of discovering.
Adele Geras ~ August 2016
Adele Geras was born in Jerusalem. She was an actress, singer and teacher of French in a girls' school in Manchester before becoming a full-time writer in 1976.
Since then she has published more than ninety books for children and young adults, as well as five novels for adults.
Adele lives in Cambridge and has two grown-up daughters and four grandchildren.
Find out more about Adele and her writing at www.adelegeras.com
Follow her on Twitter @adelegeras