The Time of My Life: A Novel
“. . . a funny, touching book, although not a must-read.”
Lucy Silchester has a little problem with the truth. She can’t stick to it to save her life—that is, until her life comes calling. Literally.
The Time of My Life is the latest in Cecelia Ahern’s series of books with a hint of magic. Three years after a particularly horrendous break up, the loss of her job in dodgy circumstances, and a move from a spacious flat to a tiny hovel, Lucy Silchester is in free fall. She’s not only lied to everyone in her life about virtually everything in her life, she can’t even stop lying to herself.
That becomes more difficult when her life sends her a letter, requesting an interview. After some initial resistance, Lucy makes and keeps the appointment. It turns out that her life is a small, bitter man in dirty clothes, who is determined to make her see the error of her ways. In order to do so, Life (soon re-christened “Cosmo”) shadows Lucy to work, family and social calls—heck, he even sleeps in her apartment. Though she’s unhappy with the situation at first, Lucy comes to have a change of heart regarding her life and how she’s chosen to live it.
This is a difficult book to review. On one hand, Ms. Ahern’s ear for dialogue is spot on. Her characters speak naturally; they’re funny, but not too witty for real life. There’s a rhythm to her scenes and genuine affection between her characters that’s refreshing.
Those characters themselves are also well written. Even the minor characters, such as Lucy’s tragic neighbor and her brothers, are complete people, believable. Lucy herself is delightful. Even in her denial she’s not annoying. It’s easy to understand why her friends have hung on, even when she’s essentially turned her back on them.
Ms. Ahern has painted a picture of a woman who is trying desperately to hang on to a semblance of dignity in the midst of her own particular storm, and she’s done so with humor and joy. Life is Lucy’s perfect foil and verbal sparring partner. He can match wits with her and tell her hard truths without becoming strident or irritating; that’s a fine trick for any author to accomplish.
What makes this a difficult story is the introduction of Life as a real person, visible to everyone and acknowledged by Lucy to all. While this story conceit is easy to envision as a quirky British sitcom, it doesn’t work so well in a book.
It’s a mighty suspension of disbelief to ask the reader to accept: everyone in one’s life is overjoyed to meet the personification of that person’s life and accept them within established family and social circles without question.
Even more difficult to stomach is when Life has done his job and moved back into the shadows and not one of his new besties remarks on his absence. Had Ms. Ahern chosen to make Life Lucy’s imaginary friend, a construct of her conscience, his presence would have been easier to accept. She could even have combined the character with one of Lucy’s underused brothers and had him be the vehicle of her enlightenment. She chose not to do either, and made her novel more difficult to swallow.
The Time of My Life is a funny, heartwarming glimpse into one woman’s life and a commentary on honesty, lies, and how they have the power to shape lives. If the reader can open up enough to accept Life as a real, physical being, this novel is a delight.
For those who can’t stretch quite that far The Time of My Life is still a funny, touching book, although not a must-read.