Confessions of a Forty-Something F**k Up jumped out at me the first moment I saw it, perhaps because I’m a forty-something myself, but more likely because the story sounded right up my street. It’s been a long wait for it due to the publication date being put back, but at last it’s here and it was everything I hoped for and more.

Nell Stevens is the forty-something f**k up, or she believes that’s what she is. After running a successful business in America with her fiancé, she suddenly finds herself back in the UK, alone and faced with having to move back into her parents’ house. I think the worst thing for Nell is that she’s the odd one out amongst her friends who are all settled in happy relationships with families, and homes that look like they belong in glossy magazines.

Of course, nothing is what it seems. What I loved about this book was how it challenged everything. Do we ever know what goes on behind closed doors? Nell is a brilliant character who is fun and kind. We follow her through a whole year of her life, month by month, as she slowly gets back on her feet. She meets Cricket when she writes the obituary of her husband, Monty, and they become the best of friends. Cricket is in her 80s but has lost none of her zest for life. And then there’s Edward, Nell’s new landlord. I loved their little battles over the thermostat and the toilet rolls.

I admit I was slightly daunted by the size of this book (500 pages). I needn’t have worried as I raced through it. It’s the sort of book I didn’t want to put down and was thinking about whenever I did. I felt all the emotions reading it. I laughed a lot as there’s so much humour in the story. I also sympathised with Nell’s situation and raged when she got let down again. I marvelled at her new friendship with Cricket and felt aggrieved on her behalf when she was with her old friends. Finally, I punched the air (not telling you why!).

Nell ends each chapter with a list of the things she’s grateful for. Here’s my list.

I’m grateful for:

  1. Having the chance to read this fantastic book.
  2. Alexandra Potter for writing it.
  3. The pure joy contained in the pages.
  4. Being reminded that nobody is perfect.

Review by Nicola Smith, Short Books and Scribes

Macmillan; Main Market edition (31 Dec. 2020)
Hardcover, ISBN-13 : 978-1529022780