LIFE SKILLS by Katie Fforde


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Love triumphs as an agreeably surprise ending validates a story that otherwise often moves as slowly as the two British hotel barges on which the protagonist is resident cook. English writer Fforde, whose popular fiction celebrates strong women who don’t fall easily (or at least immediately) in love, now tells the tale of a young woman determined to succeed on her own, without a man’s help even when she’s about to give birth. When thirtysomething Julia Fairfax is replaced by a man in the position she worked hard to develop, she decides to leave and find a job that will be fun rather than remunerative. She also breaks off her engagement to Oscar’since she realizes that she was essentially attracted by his dog and charming Queen Anne House rather than by him—and signs on as cook for two hotel barges that ply the British canals. Her boss, beautiful Suzy, is trying to turn the boats into a successful business, though help is short and the barges are run-down. Julia learns to navigate, work lock gates, and cook meals in a small space, but the men are less easy to handle. There’s Fergus, whom she’s known and disliked since childhood, who suddenly appears and is surprisingly helpful; then Oscar, who doesn’t give up easily, arrives with dog and snotty mother for a two-week stay. Though still determined to be free and footloose, Julia is attracted to Fergus and even goes to bed with him once; but though she spurns his further attentions, their lovemaking has its usual consequence. A pregnant Julia returns home to find other work. Fergus is delighted with her pregnancy and proposes marriage, but she refuses because she thinks he’s motivated by duty rather than passion. By the close, though, the ever-resourceful Fergus has devised a proposal that persuades even Julia. A stylish contemporary love story with lots of barge lore for those who love to mess with boats. But not Fforde’s usual fast-paced best

Pub Date: Sept. 27th, 1999
ISBN: 0-312-20951-7
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1999


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