You know you have been well and truly drawn into a story when you have a wee tear or two at the end of it, and such is the charm of Song of the Skylark. This is a lovely tale of two women; one coming to the end of her life story and the other at a turning point of hers. Initially we meet Lizzie, newly fired from her job where she has been having an affair with her boss – not one of her better life decisions, and one that has impacted on her family: “Poor Mum and Dad, it couldn’t be easy having her back with them again. Not only that, they were still a long way from understanding why she’d ended her four-year relationship with Simon in favour of a man they’d yet to meet – a married man to boot.”
While she is seeking new employment, she finds herself back at her parent’s house and is coerced into taking over her mother’s volunteer position at a local rest home. Reluctantly, Lizzie heads off and here she meets Mrs Clarissa Dallimore. As they begin chatting, Mrs Dallimore reveals a past that is more interesting than Lizzie first thought. As a radio station researcher, her interest in the older lady’s history is sparked, and so too is a friendship between the two. For Mrs Dallimore, talking to Lizzie allows her to revisit old friends and places. For Lizzie, the friendship and gentle counsel of the older woman leads her to a bit of soul searching. She finds herself comparing her life and personal outlook to that of the courageous Mrs Dallimore and determines to take a leaf out of the old lady’s book:
‘You might find this hard to believe,’ she said at length, ‘but before I came downstairs I was trying to sort out some of the clutter going on inside my head.’
‘Why would you think I’d find that hard to believe?’
Lizzie shrugged. ‘I know how people see me, Mum, that I’m a hopeless flibbertigibbet who can’t get anything right.’
The two heroines in Song of the Skylark and the cast of varied characters who feature alongside them, are personable and easy to relate to, the kind you would love to have a cuppa and a chat with. The story easily moves from WWII to modern times and both women’s stories engage you, leaving you wanting to see how they will win through and ensuring you are smiling along with their happy moments. Told alongside Lizzie’s story is a sub-plot involving her parents and, her twin brother and his aloof wife which, by the way, I would love to see developed into their own story (please, Ms James!).
A chick-lit story that is both historical and contemporary, it is perfect for either a beach holiday or a winter weekend. It might be a good idea to have some tissues handy.
Reviewed by Vanessa Hatley-Owen
Song of the Skylark
by Erica James
Hachette New Zealand