Fiction

Hope Nicely’s Lessons for Life by Caroline Day

What an amazing story told in this debut novel from Caroline Day. Hope Nicely is a character you can’t help but grow to love and root for – a wonderful tale of kindness, perseverance and well….hope. I never wanted to reach the end of this book.

About the book

I don’t have any friends, only dog ones, because they don’t make you do bad things. I don’t want any human friends, actually. It’s for the best.’

Hope Nicely hasn’t had an easy life.

But she’s happy enough living at 23 Station Close with her mum, Jenny Nicely, and she loves her job, walking other people’s dogs. She’s a bit different, but as Jenny always tells her, she’s a rainbow person, a special drop of light.

It’s just . . . there’s something she needs to know. Why did her birth mother abandon her in a cardboard box on a church step twenty-five years ago? And did she know that drinking while pregnant could lead to Hope being born with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder?

In a bid to find her birth mother and the answers to these questions, Hope decides to write her autobiography. Despite having been bullied throughout school, Hope bravely joins an evening class where Hope will not only learn the lessons of writing, but will also begin to discover more about the world around her, about herself and even make some (human) friends.

But when Jenny suddenly falls ill, Hope realises there are many more lessons to come . . .

What I thought

I absolutely loved this book. After the first couple of chapters in I did wonder if I could carry on with it. It does takes some getting used to, but do persevere because it is just so worth it. You will come to adore Hope, you’ll laugh with her at her funny ways and the things she says and you’ll soon get used to her way with words. Flip a pancake features on a regular basis, but isn’t it lovely to hear something like that rather than what has become almost every day use of the ‘f’ word.

The story is told in the first person by Hope herself. Hope has Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, as the name suggests, caused by exposure to alcohol from her mothers blood stream whilst she was pregnant with Hope. She was then abandoned at birth and adopted as a baby by Jenny Nicely. There are no siblings in the family, it’s just 25 year old Hope and her mum. Hope is still very dependent on her mum but she does have a job as a dog walker which she very much enjoys.

Because Hope is the narrator in this story, the reader experiences first hand what it is like to live with FASD. This is why I thought the writing is exceptional to say the least. I’m assuming that the author Caroline Day doesn’t have FASD herself so to be able to get across so well what it is like to experience frustration at your own mind when it becomes, as Hope puts it, jumbled, when situations become completely overwhelming, when you have been taught that you must do your best to control impulses to shout out or to scream to express your frustration is amazing. There are a couple of scenes in the book when Hope completely loses control. When everything just becomes too much for her to cope with. The extreme stress that Hope is feeling at these times is palpable. You feel the panic and the sheer distress that Hope is going through as you read. I thought the writing and the depiction of Hope’s character is just fantastic. The author obviously has a very deep understanding of this condition.

I won’t go into the plot as it’s all there in the book’s description but it’s a wonderful story which I thoroughly enjoyed. As well as Hope and her mum there are a whole host of other characters who added so much not only to Hope’s life but to the readers enjoyment too. I can highly recommend this quite unique book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

♥ Happy Reading ♥


Thank you to the publisher Zaffre for an advance reader copy of the book via Netgalley

The book is out today in ebook (Amazon Kindle) and in hardback on 22 July 2021.

3 thoughts on “Hope Nicely’s Lessons for Life by Caroline Day

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