This book from Moyes’ backlist seems a bit different than other books by this author; it is darker in ways, and fewer of the characters are likable. On the other hand, they are portrayed in such a realistic way that one can’t help but develop – for most of them – an understanding of, and sympathy for, both their good and bad aspects.
The focus of the book is on the family of the Fairley-Hulmes and the people with whom their lives have intersected over the past 50 years or so. (The novel moves back and forth in time.) In particular, the story centers around Suzanna, one of the Fairley-Hulme daughters, now 35 and married to Neil Peacock. Her life seems boring and passionless to her, and she thinks perhaps a shop will help make her feel fulfilled. Thus she opens The Peacock Emporium, a little boutique for “found” objects with a coffee bar.
One of Suzanna’s first customers, Jessie Carter, offers to help in the shop. Because Jessie is genial and friendly in contrast to Suzanna, Suzanna realizes Jessie can help bring in customers. In time, surly Suzanna succumbs to Jessie’s charm as well, and in spite of their nine-year age difference (Suzanna is 35 and Jessie is 26), they become the best of friends.
Through the influence of Jessie, Suzanna gets to know the other shopkeepers and customers in the neighborhood, and the store’s business grows, as does Suzanna’s happiness. One male customer in particular seems to drop by more and more frequently. But Suzanna is married, and Jessie has a long-time boyfriend. They’re not sure what it means.
Changes are also occurring in her parents’ lives, but Suzanna, pre-occupied with herself, is largely oblivious to it. Then disaster strikes, and everyone has to re-evaluate who they are and what they want out of their lives.
Discussion: It takes longer than usual for Moyes to set up the background for the story and the ways in which its threads are tied together, but once the scaffolding is laid the pace is much improved. The story is cleverly bookended by the author, which adds to one’s appreciation at the end.
While Moyes doesn’t make it easy for us to like the characters, she adds the right amount of subtlety to convince us there is more to her protagonists than first meets the eye. In addition, the characters lives are quite interesting, and Moyes has you wishing you were there in the shop, having an espresso, and watching the story unfold.
Evaluation: I enjoy all of Moyes books. Her writing is quite good and her talent for realistic dialogue is outstanding.
Published in the U.K. in 2004; Published in the U.S. by Penguin Books, 2019