About the Book
Neuroscientist Bea Hudson fears she is a bad mother and that her career will be thwarted by family life. When her husband suspects Bea of having an affair with her best friend, a chain of events is triggered, leading to a crisis in Bea’s life.
Bea Hudson, a neuropsychologist living in Godalming, is struggling to cope with the challenging behaviour of her obsessive husband Kurt and their disruptive four-year-old daughter Fran. On top of this, her boss is pressuring her to get results from her research. Bea has her work cut out.
Things come to a head when Kurt goes away on an extended business assignment. While sacking staff and drinking heavily, Kurt’s insecurities run amok and he becomes convinced that Bea’s close friend Madeleine is seducing his wife and unduly influencing his daughter.
Meanwhile, childless artist Madeleine sees her friend torn between the demands of work and offers to help with Fran. But when she reveals a startling desire to her unsympathetic therapist Mr Rowley, he advises her to focus on the attention of Colin, a man she met in a lift.
Can Bea survive the demands of her career and the turmoil in her marriage without having a breakdown? Can Madeleine survive Kurt’s anger and find happiness with Colin? And can love survive marriage, middle-age, alcohol and ambition?
Not Having it All is a novel predominantly about Bea. We follow her as she tries to keep some semblance of order in her hectic life. She has a big research project on at work, an absent husband and a demanding daughter. The pressure is building from all sides and Bea is increasingly fraught.
I love the title of this book, particularly the way it’s used on the front cover. The ‘Having it All’ and with the ‘Not’ slapped in front of it because this sums up the novel so perfectly. On face value most of the characters in this book, from an outsider’s point of view looking in, do have it all. Great careers, lovely homes etc but the grass always seems greener. Bea is a very successful neuropsychologist but the demands of her research, her young daughter and her husband, not to mention the nanny, are leaving her frazzled. She’s not got enough hours in the day. She looks at her best friend Maddie and sees a single, indendant woman with no children or commitments and she can’t help but be wistful. But we also get to see Maddie’s life and she’s not happy either. She longs for a child, a family of her own and wishes she had a lot of what Bea has. This takes a darkly comedic turn when Maddie starts seeing a Freudian therapist!
Then there’s Bea’s husband Kurt. He has to work away a lot and this leads to him becoming fixated on how much time Bea either has alone or with Maddie. He wonders if an affair could be happening. He takes desperate measures to try and find out. This all went way too far and I wanted to slap him but there was also something very amusing about where his obsession led him, like him involving his nosey neighbour in his plotting.
Bea and Kurt’s nanny, Katie, is a funny character. The scene with the dog in the park made me laugh out loud, I could picture it so vividly. She’s quite a demanding nanny but she also has to put up with a lot as the daughter Fran, aka Little Fiend, comes across as a brat. As a reader I felt sorry for Fran because of how the adults around her behaved and it obviously affects her. The nanny doesn’t have the all-seeing eye that the reader has though so I felt bad for her too as she deals with all the fall-out.
Not Having It All is predominantly told through journal entries, emails, letters and text messages, which really adds depth to the book, and to the characters. We get to find out their innermost thoughts and frustrations, which I loved. It keeps the novel moving at such a pace that you just don’t want to put it down!
I very much enjoyed this novel and I felt like I knew all of the characters really well as they’re all so fully rounded and well written. I keep wondering how Bea and Maddie are getting on! Not Having It All really does show that the grass isn’t always greener, and that asking for help or putting a bit more effort into what you already have might just bring you the happiness and calm you crave. This is a light-hearted read but also a book that made me think, and I loved every minute that I spent reading it.
Not Having It All is witty and fun, and makes you appreciate the life you have all the more! I recommend it!
Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.
Not Having It All is out now and available here.
I’ve previously reviewed Jennie Ensor’s The Girl in his Eyes.
About the Author
Jennie Ensor lives in London and has Irish roots. During a long trip overseas she obtained a Masters in Journalism and began her writing career as a journalist, covering topics from forced marriages to accidents in the mining industry. Her debut novel BLIND SIDE was published by Unbound in 2016. In January 2018 her short story ‘The Gift’ was placed in the Top 40 of the Words and Women national prose competition. Her poetry has appeared in many UK and overseas publications, most recently Ink Sweat and Tears. She sings in a chamber choir.
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