Audrey is often seized by the urge to walk out of her house without looking back – but she can’t possibly do that.
She is a single parent. She is needed. She has a job, a home, responsibilities…and a slothful teenage son’s pants to pick up.
But no one likes being taken for granted – Audrey least of all – so the time has come for drastic action. And no one’s going to stand in her way…
Although Audrey Pepper was originally named after Audrey Hepburn, her life couldn’t be more different from the one led by the glamorous actress. Working as a school dinner lady and carer, Audrey’s life revolves around picking up her lazy son, Morgans, underpants and meeting her so-called boyfriend at motorway service stations.
However, she is in for the surprise of a lifetime when she wins a ‘Dinner Lady of the Year Award’ at school…and the prize? £5,000 cash or an exclusive French cookery course at the extremely posh Wilton Grange Hotel. Ever-practical Audrey thinks this is an easy choice; she could do so much with £5,000… But as she reaches a point where she is well and truly fed up of being eighteen year old Morgan’s unpaid skivvy, Audrey decides to do something most out of the blue…She signs up to the course at the last minute, packs her suitcase and zooms off to the Wilton Grange Hotel, leaving Morgan alone with just his girlfriend and his unwashed underwear for company.
It’s not until Audrey arrives and gets going on her course that she starts to wonder exactly what she’s done. Her fellow students seem to know a fair bit about cookery already and Audrey considers herself more of a novice. The lady she cares for, Mrs B, often labels her soups as ‘bland’ and as a dinner lady she is more comfortable with serving the food than actually COOKING it. Gulp. Why does truffle popcorn taste so disgusting? What is the ‘rude end’ of an onion? Are Belini’s really just pancakes? And perhaps the biggest question of all; can Morgan survive a week on his own?
The tag line on the front cover of The Woman Who Upped and Left asks ‘Have you ever wanted to escape from it all?’ Honest answers only – who hasn’t!? I really liked the idea behind this story and I couldn’t wait to see how things would turn out.
Fiona Gibson has a habit of creating characters who you can really warm to. Often funny, down-to-earth and just like you and me, I always find she creates such wonderful heroines and Audrey was no exception. I have no doubt that many readers will be able to relate to Audrey and some perhaps to the situation that she finds herself in, too. She is kind, genuine and above all caring. As a single parent, Audrey works two jobs to keep things ticking over for herself and her son. She always puts others before herself and tries to make the best of everything. Above all, Audrey is only human and yes sometimes she makes mistakes, but the way in which she deals with everything life throws at her makes her all the more authentic.
One character who I wasn’t so keen on was the delightful *cough* Morgan. Urgh. This boy is an absolute disgrace and I desperately wanted Audrey to stand up to him. At times I felt she was being overly submissive and I just wanted her to give him what for. Still, if he hadn’t been such a brat, Audrey may never have plucked up the courage to go on the cookery course in the first place and then we wouldn’t have had this funny, absorbing down-to-earth tale to enjoy…So cheers for that, Morgan
As a complete cooking novice, when I discovered what Audrey was going to do, I did fear that the cookery side of things would take over the story, but I was relieved to find that it didn’t. In fact, I really enjoyed reading about Audrey’s culinary adventures, along with the ‘beaudiful’ chef Brad. Audrey’s reactions to the extremely posh hotel are hilarious (selfie with the free snacks, anyone?) and the fellow students on the course were also wonderful additions to the story.
There’s a fair bit of romance going on within the story too, but course it’s not as clear-cut as you might imagine, so hang fire with what you think’s going to happen…You’ve GOT to love a story that keeps you guessing!
I always view Fiona’s books as a real treat and The Woman Who Upped and Left was no exception. Massively feel-good, genuinely laugh-out-loud and above all frighteningly realistic, I think that one of the reason’s Fiona’s books are so widely enjoyed is because they are not only pant-wettingly funny, but they are also TRUE. You will relate to the characters, the storyline, the situations; everything.
All in all The Woman Who Upped and Left is a heart-warming and hilarious comedy. As bright and sunny as its gorgeous front cover, this is a super enjoyable read for everyone.
A huge thank you to Helena at Avon for sending me a copy of The Woman Who Upped and Left for review. ♥
Fiona is an author and journalist who has written for many UK publications including The Observer, The Guardian, Marie Claire, Red, New Woman, Top Sante and Elle. She writes a monthly column for Sainsbury’s magazine and is a Contributing Editor at Red magazine.
Fiona lives in Scotland with her husband, their twin sons and daughter. She likes to draw, run 10k races, play her saxophone and lie in the bath with a big glass of wine, although not all at once.