Reviewed by Wendy Lipke
Jill Mansell’s book, this could change everything is an easy to read, feel-good romance and shows how a simple, spur of the moment action can have such lasting and often devastating effects.
When Essie and her friend, Scarlett, were discussing how Essie could respond to a round robin letter written by one of her boyfriend’s aunts, little did they know just how much their decision could change everything. They decided to write a completely honest round robin to each other which no one else would ever see. However fate stepped in and Essie’s letter went viral.
This could change everything, Mansell’s 2018 novel, is the latest in a long list of books credited to this prolific writer. She has produced a book a year since her first novel, Fast Friends, in 1991.
She has also won the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Romantic Comedy Prize, for one of her works and in 2015 the RNA presented her with an outstanding achievement award. She lives in Bristol with her family.
Essie finds herself tossed out by her boyfriend and without the job he had organised for her with his mother. Shattered by the fallout she moves to Bath. Here she meets the larger than life, fashionable, strikingly attractive, kind-hearted octogenarian, Zillah who rents Essie her small one bedroom attic apartment on fashionable Percival Square. Directly across the square is the Red House where Essie manages to obtain a job as waitress. The only problem is that the manager is the same person Essie believes is responsible for her recent unwanted notoriety.
The book follows the relationships of the young people Essie meets at the Red House. She and Connor, Zillah’s other boarder, also find themselves increasingly more involved in Zillah’s Ambulance Wish Foundation, which they are happy enough to do.
Most of the characters in this book are realistic and loveable. They are people that the reader would like to hang out with themselves. Even the three-time married, and still very switched-on older Zillah is a delightful friend one would like to have. This does not mean that the book is full of fairyfloss. There are characters who are not as loveable just like there are in real life, like the irritating, loudly spoken, would be matchmaker, Caz, whose voice ‘has the effect of nails on a blackboard’(169) and who cackled with laughter like a helium-filled witch’(170). And Brendon, whom most tried to avoid when he frequented the Red House, and sat ‘on his usual stool quoting what he thought were hilarious jokes from Fawlty Towers’(254).
This book has some beautiful moments that leave lasting impressions on the characters. ‘It had been four years, but Connor had never forgotten Jessica Brown…She’d had a huge impact on his life. Unwittingly, she’d shone a light on his chosen career and shown him just how unsuited to it he was’ (165). He also fondly remembers ‘one evening when it was snowing, I saw a guy playing a violin on Milsom Street, and a girl came up and started dancing around him … like proper ballet steps… He couldn’t begin to explain the effect her brief performance had had on him; he’d been completely blown away, both by the magical scene itself and by the idea of a girl who could break into dance like that for the sheer love of it’(385) . These incidents plus the joy that just simple acts of kindness can bring to others was something that endeared this book to me.
In an interview with My Weekly in January 2018, Jill Mansell said, ‘When I decided to try to write a book of my own,… (the) style of writing – that exuberant mix of romance and comedy and drama and fun – was what I aimed for. I always want my readers to wish they could be living in my novels alongside the characters’. I believe Jill Mansell has achieved her goal and I look forward to reading more of the novels written by this author.
By Jill Mansell