Having already read, enjoyed and reviewed Torn by this author, I was expecting Life Class to be a good read too. And it was.
Genre: Contemporary Women’s Fiction/Romance
Four people hide secrets from the world and themselves. Dory is disillusioned by men and relationships, having seen the damage sex can do. Fran deals with her mid-life crisis by pursuing an online flirtation which turns threatening. Stefan feels he is a failure and searches for self-validation through his art. Dominic is a lost boy, heading for self-destruction. They meet regularly at a life-drawing class, led by sculptor Stefan. They all want a life different from the one they have, but all have made mistakes they know they cannot escape. They must uncover the past – and the truths that come with it – before they can make sense of the present and navigate a new path into the future.
As in Torn, the setting and characters are the main strengths of the story.
The descriptions of places are subtle but just detailed enough for the reader to draw up their own pictures of the area, homes, classroom and studio where most of the action takes place.
This time we have four main characters, sisters Dory and Fran, artist, Stefan and teenager, Dom. The first three are slightly older but no wiser than characters in more conventional romances and they’re all the more interesting for that. They all have their own very human flaws but it’s to the author’s credit that they all still remain sympathetic and likeable. The reader wants Fran to find peace, Dory and Stefan to find love and companionship and Dom to get a bit of a break in his difficult young life.
The plot plays out from each of their points of view in turn. This could get tricky and a lot the narrative is introspective, but Gilli Allan is well up to the job of keeping it all flowing and easy to follow.
There’s always enough going on to keep you turning the pages. What is the relationship between Stefan and Dom? Will Fran be able to find a way back from the difficulties she gets herself into? Can Dory recover from past troubles and get her life back together again? And, of course, there’s the will they /won’t they potential for romance.
My only slight nit-pick is the editing. The author has obviously done lots of research into artistic and medical techniques, but there was way too much technical information included in the story. This could have been cut considerably without detracting from the novel or the reader’s understanding in any way. However, it’s a sign how good the book actually is that it remains a page turner in spite of that.
All in all Life Class is a very good read. Like Torn it’s much more complex and layered than chick-lit, definitely Romance-plus, and it’s all the more satisfying for that.
Type of Read: After darkness has fallen, sit on the sofa, by a log fire, curtains drawn. Christmas cake and mulled wine to hand. Curl up and enjoy.
Life Class is published by Accent Press and is available as a paperback and as an e-book.
11 thoughts on “Book Review: Life Class by Gilli Allan”
Thank you for reading and reviewing LIFE CLASS, Anne . I am absolutely delighted with everything you say. After spending the day, shopping and cooking I was feeling tired. Having just read your review I am now fizzing. Gillix
That’s good. Now relax 🙂
I’ll try. 🙂
I don’t think you’re nit picking, Anne. Research in fiction is important. The reader somehow knows if the writer has skimped (even if the reader doesn’t know much about the particular topic). But he / she doesn’t want to overload on it. It’s enough that the writer knows and that what he / she knows comes through in the reading. Research is for showing not telling. Keeping it in the background lets the reader suspend disbelief and enjoy the story.
But it’s really annoying where the set up of a story just doesn’t ring true, and you suspect the writer hasn’t researched the subject or has thought that what she thinks she knows is sufficient. I always enjoy books where I really feel I’m learning something about a subject. Gillix
Thanks for finding me in my long-gone Honolulu years.. I’m glad I’ve found you!. I too am a grandmother, writer, blogger and yoga practtioner. Also Tai Chi and Qi Gong although I don’t ride motorcycles.
I’ve written 2 unpublished novels. In 3-4 months I’ll publish a memoir featuring the Seattle father I never knew and some later years moving around—a family mystery. Until then I blog about related subjects and learn what fun it is to meet other bloggers.
Hi Paula, I’m glad to have found you too. It does sound like we have a lot in common. All the best with the memoir publication. Looking forward to more of your posts.
It sounds as if you have a wealth of life experience to channel into your writing, Paula. Good luck. Gillix
I do research also, and have to restrain myself sometimes at using it. I once met someone who got so carried away with his research that he never started the book he planned to write.
Dear Anne, I’ve been following this page for some years now and always enjoy your reviews. About the question at hand, I think research is necessary until you feel comfortable enough with the knowledge you have acquired to start writing. However, I think you can start anytime with what you already know and work on researching as you go along. As Paula says, the important thing is not to feel discouraged if your knowledge does not span over all areas of your planned book. Maybe sometimes your story is just too ambitious to feel comfortable with and needs to be broken down into a less complex form. Hope this helps.
Hello, Susan. First of all thank you for your long term interest and I’m so glad you enjoy the reviews. Yes, research is a tricky thing. It’s aways a question of balance – doing enough and including just enough to keep your story credible and interesting.