Saturday, 25 April 2015

"Before I Go" by Colleen Oakley.

Thanks to and Allen and Unwin for sending me a review copy of this title (along with some fancy tissues)...

Daisy has been cancer free for almost three years and is wondering if her husband, Jack will remember to book somewhere nice for her ‘Cancerversary’?  He’s not great with the everyday chores and she finds herself almost ‘mothering’ him on a daily basis.  She doesn’t like picking up his socks, sorting out his drawers or reminding him to eat.  But she loves him to bits.  Complete opposites, they nevertheless work well together.  He’s the scatty scientist type, while she leans towards OCD with her need to organise everything and make never-ending lists of things to be done. 
When the cancer returns, the couple struggle to cope with the diagnosis and can’t seem to find a mutual way to enjoy the time they have left together.  Jack is heartbroken but he doesn’t know how to verbalise it.  Daisy is in quasi-denial and refuses to let herself relax on old habits. She worries that Jack will not cope when she dies and she hatches a plan to find him a new wife.  What starts off as a plan for her husband’s future, turns into a gut wrenching experience for Daisy.  How can you find your own replacement when you don’t want to leave?  All the while, the tensions are building at home as the couple tiptoe around the cancer-in-the-room.  Daisy even agrees to letting her mother, a highly emotional, bird-watching, lonely woman, help her out.  Luckily she has her feisty and flirty best friend, Kayleigh, to call on for some light relief. 

This debut is sure to be popular.  The publishers have placed a sticker on the cover offering a refund if the reader doesn’t think it’s ‘as good as JoJo Moyes’.  This seems a brave, if risky, move as Moyes has sold millions of books and has a huge fan base.  Her novel Me Before You has a similar theme to this story (dying character, lots of emotion) and the covers are remarkably similar.  Hopefully this won’t backfire on Colleen Oakley as her writing is good. Damn good.  The only small issue I had with it (and it may not even have been obvious to the author or editor at the time) was that the couple of black characters that were included were described as black straight away.  This led to an uncomfortable feeling as the colour of their skin was completely irrelevant to the story.  Both were staff in medical centres and neither were mentioned again.  No white characters got the same treatment and it just jarred a bit.  That said, the medical research was well used, the mood was light enough to carry each chapter through without becoming maudlin and Kayleigh and Daisy’s Mother were wonderful additions.  Jack was more in the background and I couldn’t just grasp him.  Daisy was an odd one too.  Straight laced, but innocent with it. Distant and rude at times (not overly keen of her attitude to her friendly neighbour, or her treatment of her therapist) but if I knew I was dying, I’m sure I would have moments of being an absolute bitch!  She balances these epsiodes with deep profound thoughts, but never voices them aloud. "... how [personal] memories act like kersosene on the fire of my love for him.  They engulf me.  Scorch the innards of my being."  

This may make it seem that I didn’t enjoy Before I Go.  This is not the case.  I really enjoyed it.  It is an ideal read for someone who loves to escape for a while.  Sometimes we need to have a good, inexplicable cry.  Let off some steam, switch off from dreary chores or crappy TV.  You could do a lot worse than this book.  It is a poignant story of hope, fear and love.  Three interchangeable emotions that can divert direction at any time.  An emotional read with slivers of humour, ideal for fans of comfy slippers, long chats with your BFF and weepy movies.  I’m just not sure I would compare it to JoJo Moyes, that might be a bit overly optimistic.  This is still one I would recommend and it is well worth the price of a paperback for the escapism and emotional rollercoaster. 

Before I Go is published in paperback on 7th May by Allen and Unwin and is currently available in hardback and ebook format.


  1. I'm waiting for my copy and can't wait to read this book. Great review as usual!


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