Life, Slightly, by Nigel Jay Cooper
Life, Slightly, by Nigel Jay Cooper
Hey guys, welcome back to Bookish Beyond.
How have you been?
Today, I’m excited to be reviewing Life, Slightly, by Nigel Jay Cooper.
So, if you’ve got your favourite drink to hand and are all settled in, let’s begin.
Gavin and Jackie meet as strangers, by a pond, where they begin to share their life stories. The story switches from past memories, back to the present at intervals, allowing Gavin and Jackie to reflect on their lives.
We learn of Gavin’s first love, Steve, and how he met his now-wife at university as he battled with his homosexual feelings. While Gavin promises his wife that he’ll stay away from Steve, fate has other plans for Gavin’s life.
Thereafter, we learn about Jackie’s troubled childhood and how she has always sought to help people, even if she goes about it in somewhat inappropriate ways.
Four key characters exist in this spellbinding story – Jackie, Gavin, Steve, and Imogen.
Jackie is a peculiar woman who constantly battles with the voice in her head. While she seems harmless enough at first glance, there is a sense of mystery about her character, as if she is hiding something. While she cares deeply about other people, she often goes about showing it the wrong way, stalking strangers who she sees in distress, thinking of them as her friends and wanting to help fix their problems. In general, Jackie seemed like a lonely woman, possessing an air of sadness about her, but also a strong sense of life and innocence. She does her best to keep people out – emotionally-speaking – to stop them from being able to see the real her, crippled by painful memories and a lingering sense of sadness.
In contrast, Gavin seemed to be a more self-centred character, always choosing decisions that benefitted him. As a young man, we learn about his reluctance to admit to his homosexual feelings, going to great lengths to prove to his peers that he is straight. We see him make many mistakes, hurting those closest to him in an effort to find some semblance of happiness in his life. Overall, Gavin was a good father and a kind man at heart. However, we constantly see him struggling with his own inner-demons, refusing to accept his own personal truth and allowing others to suffer because of this.
Next, we come to Steve, Gavin’s first love. Steve is a laid back and optimistic sort of man. Even when he was young, living with an alcoholic mother and essentially raising himself, he exuded a particular sense of calm. In addition, he was a smart, playful and perceptive man, always doing what he could to make those around him comfortable, and seeing into others in a profound way. I found myself admiring Steve’s courage and resolve, how he always knew who he was and refused to shy away from it.
Finally, we have Imogen, Gavin’s wife. At first, Imogen is introduced to us as a happy university student, so full of life and hope. However, over time, this sense of vitality seemed to gradually fade away, a once loving woman replaced by a cold and somewhat controlling individual, a likeness to Imogen’s own mother. While I could understand how Imogen came to change in such a drastic way over time, I also often felt she was being unfair to Gavin and therefore found it difficult to warm to her at any point. Overall, I simply did not like her as a character.
There were a great many positive things about this novel, which helped to make my reading experience thoroughly enjoyable.
- Firstly, the author uses a very visual, descriptive style of writing that allows readers to picture the scenes in detail. In addition, the style used is deeply emotive, stressing every nuanced feeling that each character experiences.
- Secondly, I especially liked how the present scenes were told in third person present tense, with the past memory passages being told in third person past tense. These styles of narration really helped to mimic the feeling of being present in the moment, versus reflecting on the past.
- In addition, Gavin and Steve’s interactions were natural and electric, with a smidgen of tension on Gavin’s behalf, making for powerful scenes involving the two of them.
- Furthermore, I loved seeing how Gavin and Jackie steadily built up a bond over the course of one day, learning to care for each-other, even though they were essentially strangers. This demonstrated just how deeply humans can come to care about each-other when exposing even just a small slice of their private lives, in order to connect.
- Finally, I liked seeing how both Gavin and Jackie’s characters developed over time. Jackie’s own evolution was particularly profound to me and, at one point, had me on the verge of tears.
While reading Life, Slightly, I encountered an endless amount of inspiring quotes. However, for brevity, I have included only the following five.
1) ‘You can’t live your life slightly. You can’t lock big chunks of it away and expect to be happy. You’ve got to embrace all of it, even the bits that terrify you.’
2) ‘The future’s still ahead of you. Don’t keep making the same mistakes.’
3) ‘You don’t have to do what you think other people expect of you all the time.’
4) ‘Everyone needs to be seen.’
5) ‘We all have visible lives, the parts we put on display, but what about our invisible lives, the bits we pack away because we can’t face them?’
Overall, Life, Slightly was a spellbinding tale of past love, deception, and life choices. Told in four parts, it wove together the past and present of two stranger’s lives, connecting them to one-another, while simultaneously allowing them to grow as individuals.
Themes included deception, having to pretend to be something you’re not vs being true to oneself, love, loss, and friendship.
My Rating: 5 stars
Recommended to: lovers of deeply emotional life stories, which explore a range of important everyday themes.
Would you like more information?
To learn more about Life, slightly, you can visit its Goodreads page, HERE.
Or, to find out more about Nigel Jay Cooper, simply visit his website, HERE.
As always, thank you for joining me for today’s review.
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Have a wonderful week,