A second chance for Janie (+ this book)

The book's original cover.

When did you last read a book you knew nothing about by an author you’d never heard of?

If you’re anything like me, recommendations, reviews and revisits to favourite authors past play a big role in your reading choices.

So when a colleague who reads a book a week told me back in April 2007 that she thought I’d really enjoy Growing Up Again by Catriona McCloud, I took it home and put it on the to-read bookshelf. I’ve moved house five times since, adding the very purple-covered book to a box, lugging it from one house to the next, and placing it back on the shelf each time.

It survived My Great Big Book Cull (last time we moved I vowed to buy only ebooks from then on and sorted my printed books into those I can’t live without – 20 cartons – and those I can bear to part with – 20 cartons).

Last week, I had to do a further cull to make room for all those self-improvement books I mentioned here recently, so I picked up Growing Up Again to toss it in an out-box, thinking that if I hadn’t read it yet, I probably never would.

I decided to have one last read of the blurb on the back cover. If my aforementioned colleague thought there was something in it for me, she must’ve had a reason.

“Janie Lawson’s life hasn’t turned out quite the way she’d hoped. Nearly forty, she’s in a marriage that’s frozen over with a mother-in-law she despises …”

Ah ha! That was the problem first time around. In 2007, I was years from 40, co-habiting but not yet engaged, and thought I’d end up being great friends with my future mother-in-law. I’ve grown into this book.
I read on.

“Before Janie can make the final step toward divorce, though, her fate is taken out of her hands. Janie wakes up in her old bedroom and finds it just as it was in her teens …”

Swept back in time, and into her 15-year-old body, Janie sets out to right some of the serious wrongs of the 1980s – starting with saving Lady Diana Spencer from the clutches of the Camilla Parker Bowles-loving Prince of Wales. She tries to prevent the Tiananmen massacre and warn authorities about serial killers, nuclear disasters and terrorist attacks.

It was the Lady Diana reference that made me open the book and start reading rather than sending the book to the departure lounge. I remember the engagement of Charles and Diana vividly. I was one romantic little girl. If I’d known then what we know now, I would’ve been devastated for Diana, and tried to save her from heartache too.
Janie is a sweet character, and the maturity and charm with which she steers her parents and friends towards better lives is fairy godmother-like.

The cover (whether the original as pictured on this page or current as seen here) leads you to believe you’re picking up a work of chick lit, but there is no time travel in Bridget Jones. I daren’t compare Growing Up Again to The Time Traveller’s Wife because I made the mistake of seeing the film before I read the book. The film was so awful, I’m not sure I can be bothered to read the book now.

If you’re looking for a light summer read for the beach bag, you could do worse than McCloud’s book. It’ll demand your attention from start to finish, and make you giggle as well as frown at times. It addresses some serious issues, from gambling and alcoholism to Down Syndrome and dyslexia, amid the froth and frivolity.

I’m glad I gave it a second chance, and am now pondering what I’d do differently if I had my time again.

Read more books? Definitely!

Growing Up Again is on sale here at Booku.com for less than $9.

Published by

Charlotte Harper

Charlotte Harper is a Canberra journalist, blogger, editor and publisher who has worked in newspapers, magazines, books and online. She runs digital-first non-fiction publisher Editia and covered book industry developments at ebookish.com.au before joining Booku.com. A former literary editor of The South China Morning Post, Charlotte has also written about books and technology for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Canberra Times. She once edited a mobile phone and gadget magazine, and is a published author, of a book about digital publishing – Weird Wild Web (Penguin Australia 1999).