The Forever Girl is the latest offering by best-selling author Alexander McCall Smith, who apparently, is not only one of the few male authors who attempts ‘chick lit’, but he’s also highly successful while doing so. In all truthfulness though, I’d only recently heard of him, and until now had never read one of his books. Either I’m not his target market, or I’ve been living under a rock.

The Forever Girl is a novel that spans over twenty years, telling the story of Clover, a girl who meets and falls in love with the man of her dreams, James, when she’s only four years old. Only problem is, he doesn’t appear to reciprocate. They’re childhood best friends until hormones, school and sheer distance come between them. Spanning The Caribbean, Australia and the UK, Clover follows James, and her heart, to give love one last shot.

While the relationship between Clover and James is the central plot of The Forever Girl, there’s also a secondary plot – one that follows the love that Clover’s mum, Amanda, and James’s dad have together. Though neither give into their feelings (they’re both married) their yearning and unspoken love for one another acts as a pantomime of Clover and James’s relationship.

WARNING: While I usually try to avoid it, to review this book I’ll be giving away some spoilers.

The Forever Girl was a fun, enjoyable read that I consumed in only a couple of days. It was lovely and breezy, with likeable characters and exactly the book I needed, after slogging my way through On The Road. McCall Smith is clearly an experience writer who knows his target audience and what they expect from his plots. His writing style is so perfectly tuned that it was even quite obvious when he was providing visual clues that reflected the plot. In short, I really liked this book.

But I found the ending disappointed, and I found the two lead characters frustrating. Essentially, The Forever Girl follows Clover as she tries again and again to get over James. She knows she should move on from him, but she can’t. She tries dating another man for years (never a good idea), and yet she still can’t get over him. In short, the entire novel is of her yearning to be James, yet never being courageous enough to actually tell her how she feels.

And then, while the reader has clearly been waiting the entire novel for it to happen, James declares his love to Clover. Doesn’t explain why now, or why is he even telling her now, it’s just BAM, I love you, and then the book is completed two pages later. And as a reader, I just felt that this was an absolute cope out by McCall Smith, and without an explanation, it soured the entire novel.

Why, after all, was James telling Clover only now that he had feelings for her? If he has always been in love with her (as he announced he did), why was he calling her ‘sister’? Why didn’t he actually contact her or provide her with an email address when she asked for it? And dear god, how on earth can two people go twenty years knowing one another, yet both being too afraid to tell each other how they feel – or even, just flirt a little? I mean, I was happy and relieved when they got their happy ever after (even if I was jibbed a lovely big finale), but I got so frustrated with Clover that I almost felt she didn’t deserve it.

I did enjoy this book. It is the perfect ‘too tired to think, just want to relax’ type of book. It would be wonderful to read by a pool or on the beach. While I wasn’t particularly happy with the ending, I still enjoyed McCall Smith’s writing style. I would definitely pick up one of his other books, and if you want something that is carefree and predicable, then I recommend you do too (although you probably have, with over 20 million copies sold).

Have you read anything by Alexander McCall Smith? Have you read The Forever Girl? Can a man successfully write Chick Lit? Let me know!

the forever girl by alexander mccall smith

The Forever Girl – (image taken from http://www.blogspot.com)

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