Confessions of a Forty-Something F**k Up by Alexandra Potter

It was early February this year when I read this fabulous book. It’s one of those books for which the publishing date was put back due to Covid but it’s here at last and it really is a brilliantly funny book.

About the Book

Nell Stevens’ life is a mess.

When her business goes bust and her fiancé with it, Nell’s happy ever after in California falls apart and she moves back to London to start over. But a lot has changed since she’s been gone. All her single friends are now married with children, sky-high rents force her to rent a room in a stranger’s house and in a world of perfect instagram lives, she feels like a f*ck up. Even worse, a forty-something f*ck-up.

But when she lands a job writing obituaries, Nell meets the fabulous Cricket, an eighty-something widow with challenges of her own, and they strike up an unlikely friendship. Together they begin to help each other heal their aching hearts, cope with the loss of the lives they had planned, and push each other into new adventures and unexpected joys.

Because Nell is determined. Next year things are going to be very different. It’s time to turn her life around.

What I thought

When we’re in our twenties maybe even younger we have a plan, a vision of how we’d like our life to pan out. But what happens when all those carefully laid plans don’t work out the way you’d hoped, what then?

This is Penelope or Nell to all who know her. This is Nell’s life, in the midst of her forty’s and everything suddenly seems to have gone belly up. She never envisaged renting out a room in a shared house, not being married to Ethan and living happily ever after in California, and instead back in London writing obituaries for a living. What now? Well if you’re Nell you just suck it up and get on with it, hoping something better might come along.

I loved this book, most of all because it was so funny. That was the character of Nell, covering up how she really felt by taking a light hearted approach to all that went wrong. This is a quote from the book

“Embrace your sense of humour, don’t ever take yourself too seriously, every day is another chance to laugh instead of cry, and when nothing is certain, everything is a hell of a lot less scary when you make fun of it.”

That’s a great philosophy to have in life and certainly made for a humorous read. But there is a deeper side to Nell. The disappointments, friends who seemingly have it all who she feels she’s losing touch with.  Children? Nell would love children but the opportunity hasn’t come up. Loss, she has suffered loss. So as well as all the laughs there are some very poignant scenes in the book too.

There are some wonderful supporting characters. Edward her landlord who she rents a room from, Cricket an 80 year old lady who Nell becomes great friends with after writing an obituary for Cricket in memory of her husband Monty. And all Nell’s friends who she’s known most of her grown up life.

At the end of most of the chapters Nell writes a gratitude list. I loved reading these so much so that when I stumbled on a gratitude app in the app store I downloaded it, and now I’ve got my very own. She comes up with the unlikeliest of things to be grateful for which makes you realise that a gratitude journal can be fun to look back on.

It’s fiction but I’m sure so many women could easily identify with Nell and her not so perfect, not so insta-worthy life. There are lots of references to hashtags and social media and giving that outward appearance of having it all, when really we’re all human with the same problems, the same ‘lemons’ to deal with. The message being just accept things the way they are and stop trying to live up to an impossible dream.

Just read it, it’ll make you smile, cry but most of all you’ll feel there’s hope. You never know – you might even find yourself keeping a gratitude journal.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

♥ Happy Reading ♥

With thanks to the publisher Pan Macmillan for an ARC of this book via Netgalley.

The book is out today 30 November in e-book format and will be published in Hardback on 31 December 2020.

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