Susan and Norma have been best friends for years, at first thrust together by force of circumstance (a job at The Pin Cushion, a haberdashery shop in 1990s Leicestershire) and then by force of character (neither being particularly inclined to make friends with anyone else). But now, thirty years later, faced with a husband seeking immortality and Norma out of reach on a wave of professional glory, Susan begins to wonder whether she has made the right choices about life, love, work, and, most importantly, friendship.
Nina Stibbe’s new novel is the story of the wonderful and sometimes surprising path of friendship: from its conspiratorial beginnings, along its irritating wrong turns, to its final gratifying destination.
One Day I Shall Astonish the World is a book that took me a while to get into. We chart the main character Susan’s life in the 1990s through to the present day, as an older woman. We experience alongside her an array of key milestones such as meeting her husband Roy, forming key friendships, and having her first child.
It’s a fairly slow burner of a novel, with humorous parts present – I always think Nina Stibbe’s writing is funny, whatever the subject – but for the first third or so I wasn’t sure whether to continue reading as the story wasn’t grabbing me. However, the more I got to know Susan, the more I wanted to read about her despite not necessarily connecting with her. She is not surrounded by particularly nice people – or perhaps I should say, not the right people for her. Her ‘best friend’ Norma in particular is a tricky character and her husband Roy, though lovely to start with, changes significantly after they have their first child. Though I liked Susan, I didn’t care for most of the other characters.
I found the book a bit poignant and sad at times, as I’m sure is intended. I really like Nina’s writing in general so I continued with this novel and overall I am glad I did, but I much preferred other books I’ve read by this author.
My rating: 3/5
Many thanks to the publisher, Little Brown, for providing a copy of this book on which I chose to write an honest review.