All the Good Things by Clare Fisher
Release Date: 1st June 2017
What’s the Story?
Twenty-one year old Beth is in prison. The thing she did is so bad she doesn’t deserve ever to feel good again.
But her counsellor, Erika, won’t give up on her. She asks Beth to make a list of all the good things in her life. So Beth starts to write down her story, from sharing silences with Foster Dad No. 1, to flirting in the Odeon on Orange Wednesdays, to the very first time she sniffed her baby’s head.
But at the end of her story, Beth must confront the bad thing.
What is the truth hiding behind her crime? And does anyone – even a 100% bad person – deserve a chance to be good?
When we first meet Beth she is undergoing counselling in prison. We don’t know exactly what it is she has done to land herself there, but when her therapist, Erika, tells her to write a list of all of the good things in her life she is doubtful. What if there aren’t any good things? And more to the point, does she deserve to have anything good in her life ever again…?
As Beth compiles her list we are taken on a heart-wrenching journey, full of loneliness, despair, anger, tragedy, pain, confusion interspersed with joy, that is Beth’s life. From growing up in foster care, to first boyfriends and jobs, we follow Beth on her tremulous journey through to adulthood before discovering what the bad thing that she has committed really is…
I deliberately avoided reading any reviews of All the Good Things after someone told me it was a difficult one to write about without giving too much away. I was determined that no spoilers were going to ruin it for me, meaning I didn’t really have any idea of what to expect when I picked up this innocent-enough looking novel on a sunny Saturday in my back garden…
I WAS ABSOLUTELY BLOWN AWAY.
All the Good Things completely consumed me. It took over my life for the two days that I was reading it and real-life became an inconvenience that was to be dealt with as quickly as possible so I could bury myself back within its pages.
I loved the format of the story, the title of each chapter being an item from Beth’s list and then we go on to find out the story behind what it was that made her happy (and some of these things were magical…Friends you can be weird with and Flirting on Orange Wednesdays were my personal favourites). It then plays out chronologically, each telling us a different episode from Beth’s life.
As the story progresses it becomes more and more difficult to believe that Beth is now only 21. She has been through so much in her short life, the difficulties starting when she was only a young child. Since then her life has been a catalogue of disasters and failings upon other peoples part as she is constantly let down…Whether that’s by the authorities, the people who are supposed to be there helping her, or, perhaps most painful of all, those closest to her.
A childhood spent growing up within the care system and constantly being uprooted leaves Bethany destructive and confused. Her real mother seemingly doesn’t want any contact with Bethany and this vulnerable little girl tries to find her way in life by clinging on to the things that she loves most; namely reading, making up stories and as she grows older – running. But she soon discovers that running away is not always the best thing to do…
I desperately wanted good things for Bethany. I didn’t know what the ‘bad thing’ was that she’d done to land herself in prison, but my heart broke for this young women who had no one. You can’t help but place yourself in Beth’s position throughout certain parts of the novel and I’ll freely admit that if I was in some of the situations that she found herself in I would either be a sobbing mess/terrified/ready to just give up. Yet Beth keeps on fighting, which is what drew me to this hugely complex and deeply affecting character. She felt so very real to me and has such a strong voice throughout the story.
When I discovered what the ‘bad thing’ that Beth had done really was, my opinion didn’t necessarily change. It shocked me, it frightened me, it upset me..but it also got me wondering – despite being ‘100% bad’ – wasn’t Beth really a victim herself?
Despite the awful things that Beth has been through and the battles she’s faced, this is still a story full of hope. It’s profoundly moving and one of those stories that I really can’t get out of my head. I find myself wondering what happens next for Beth, despite finishing this book over a week ago.
All the Good Things is one of those books that reminds me why I love reading so much. When a story can completely consume your thoughts and you find yourself becoming so involved with the characters that you are daydreaming about them when you’re supposed to be working you know that your books a good ‘un. And this really, really was. BIG STYLE.
I honestly can’t believe that this is Clare Fisher’s debut. Where did she come from? I sincerely hope that she’s writing her second novel right this second because I desperately need to read more from this hugely talented author.
I loved her style of writing, her characterisation, her unique voice, the way in which she makes the reader feel fully immersed in the story, the way she manages to correlate both the good and the bad, the unhappiness and the happiness, the sadness and the joy. I just love Clare Fisher.
Just writing this review has made me want to re-read All the Good Things (in case there were bits I missed…You never know…) If you’re looking for a good novel to get into over the summer then this needs to be top of your list. Just don’t forget the tissues and be prepared to lose a day or two of your life to this superb story.
A huge thank you to Penguin for the opportunity to read and review All the Good Things.