Review published on August 9, 2017.
Ever since his debut, Lost and Found, I’ve been a fan of author Tom Winter and his latest novel, 31 Days of Wonder, serves to affirm his quality as he excels in an at times witty, at times poignant but always engaging and heartfelt read.
On the face of it, this may seem like an ordinary boy meets girl novel as that is the very essence of what happens in the first chapter when Ben meets Alice by chance in a London park. But there is nothing ordinary about that first meeting or what ensues. Indeed, after a car accident when he was young, Ben has to take medication to stabilise his mental health so his introduction to Alice isn’t the typically romantic meet cute, but rather a rambling and frenetic outburst. And Alice, who struggles with issues of weight and self-esteem, hardly returns the gesture when her imperious colleague, Geneva, interrupts their conversation before it’s even begun. But it is on the basis of this spontaneous yet beautiful moment that the lives of these two strangers unfolds over the subsequent 31 days. For though their meeting may be brief it stirs in them both something that alters their paths in subtle and not so subtle ways.
What is so wonderful is that Winter’s tale (excuse the pun!) is not the predictable romantic affair we read so often but a much more nuanced and perceptive novel about two separate characters, connected by a moment, who are trying to navigate individual lives that are far from perfect. Ben and Alice are beautifully drawn characters with very real and relatable flaws but who are both essentially decent, good people, and the depictions of their lives and circumstances is both gloriously comical and woefully honest.
Winter is a supremely talented author who crosses genres and expectations, brilliantly balancing the comic and the poignant. Indeed, at times I was laughing out loud, whilst at others I was holding back the tears. And the device of telling the story of two characters over the course of a month was a simple yet wonderfully effective and telling one. There may be some readers who long for a different conclusion particularly at the end and I did wonder myself whether the ending would be the most obvious one, but Winter sticks to the authenticity and integrity of his story which makes for an ending that is true to the novel and his characters.
All in all, I was hugely impressed yet again by this author and absolutely loved this book. I would thoroughly recommend it to individual readers and reading groups alike and I look forward to seeing what Winter does next.
Jade Craddock 5/5
31 Days of Wonder by Tom Winter
Corsair 9781472153166 hbk Aug 2017
ATW80: PORTUGAL – Skylight by José Saramago