stay-close-to-me-book cover

Stay Close to Me: Novel Review

Review by Stacey O’Carroll


Publisher: Simon & Schuster

RRP: $19.95

Release Date: 1 January 2023

What if? That is the question the three protagonists in bestselling British author Helen Warner’s novel Stay Close to Me explore while processing grief. At the start of a new year, a sudden change or grief can leave us wondering if we are happy with what we have and who is in our lives.

In the style of Marian Keyes, Warner weaves the three stories of widow Jennifer and her two married adult daughters, Kate and Amy, over the course of a year after their much-adored patriarch has died. Jennifer attempts to cope with the loneliness of an empty house and the grief of losing her partner of nearly forty years by drowning her sorrows. Until a man from her past shows up in her small English town and rustles old feelings and possibilities. Amy lives a luxurious London lifestyle with her husband and two kids and seldom worries about the cost of things. That is until Amy’s comfortable life falls apart, and she suddenly needs to find a job with no experience and rebuild her family’s life. Kate has always been jealous of her sister’s fancy lifestyle and, after her father’s death, has become disgruntled with how her husband sees her. When an accident leads to an encounter with an attractive stranger, Kate finds herself wondering if this man could provide her with a happier life.

Throughout Warner’s novel, she handles the disruption and chaos of grief with nuance and relatability. Losing an immediate family member who was a large presence in one’s life can rattle even the most tethered person.

One of the great things about a novel having multiple protagonists is that the reader can find the character they relate to the most. The downside is that often, the other main characters can become irritating. Such is the case for me with Warner’s Jennifer and Kate. The family dynamics between the three women are believable and add interesting layers to their characterisation. The reader feels for the adult child who thinks they have not lived up to their parent’s expectations.

Warner creates a lovely and realistic London and village world for her characters to move within. The evocative descriptions of the houses allow the reader to easily escape to the beautiful North West London mansion and country cottage.

I am a fan of comedic romance novels in the vein of Keyes for their enjoyable stories, quirky characters and escapism. However, many romance novel plots may be predictable, given the genre conventions, yet there is comfort in knowing that the ending will be happy. Unfortunately, I found Stay Close to Me far too predictable, and at times the characters’ behaviour baffling. The plot twist was, unfortunately, evident very early on. Although complex characters are a good thing in any novel, the unethical behaviour of one main character seemed so far out of character that I could not sympathise with them at all.

Another problematic area for me was the romanticising of Jennifer’s love interest’s stalker behaviour. I found myself wondering how I was supposed to be happy that these two people had found themselves together again when he was clearly stalking her for years.

Overall, the novel is well-written. Warner’s Stay Close to Me would make a great holiday read for anyone who wants to escape to a quaint village in England for a while.



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