Book Review: The Sparkle Pages by Meg Bignell – #DNF

The Sparkle Pages…

About the Book:

A wonderfully original and heartfelt comic novel about one woman’s mission to reignite the passion in her marriage – and rediscover herself.

‘Is marriage just a series of texts about where the children are and whether we need milk until one of you dies?’

Susannah Parks – wife, mother, cleaner of surfaces and runner of household – is a viola virtuoso. Except she hasn’t picked up a viola for over a decade. She has, however, picked up a lot of Lego, socks, wet towels and other exhibits of mundanity. She has also picked up on the possibility that her husband has lost interest in her. (And frankly, she’s not very interested in Susannah Parks either.) But this year, she has resolved to be very interesting. Also thoughtful, useful, cheerful, relevant, self-sufficient, stylish, alluring and intelligent.

In her highly confidential diary, Susannah documents the search for the elusive spark in her marriage, along with all the high and low notes of life with her four beloved children, with her free-spirited (and world famous) best friend Ria, and with Hugh, the man who fills her heart with burning passion and her washing pile with shirts.

And perhaps amid the chaos she might be brave enough to find the missing pieces of herself.


My Thoughts:

I wanted so much to like this novel. It’s so beautifully sparkly with its gold page edges and gold foil cover design, but you really should never judge a book by its cover – that old saying is so true! I persevered with this one until around the 80 page mark, but with an ever growing review pile, I’ve begun to be a bit more savage and have decided that if a book isn’t grabbing me a few chapters in, I’m going to pass on it. I skipped ahead from page 80 to the last two chapters, and it seemed like a very nice story, but that alone wasn’t enough to keep me going. I’ve seen some favourable reviews for this novel, from bloggers I follow as well as on Goodreads, so I think it’s worth explaining why this book just didn’t work for me.

‘Hugh sighed and said, “Don’t overthink it, Susannah. Don’t dream up problems. We’re fine.”’

This quote, from page 43, pretty much sums up my feelings on this story. The whole thing seemed set to be about Susannah overthinking things, hiding in her closet to write about them, rinse, repeat. Diary narratives are not a favourite of mine, and this one is entirely a diary, there’s no break from it, so no break from Susannah. I’m also not a fan of parenting novels: the type where much of the story is made up of the daily grind of parenting depicted with overblown comic conjecture. I’m currently living that daily grind, minus the comedy; I don’t want to read about it. I read to escape, to walk in different shoes, not to be reminded of my everyday life. Sometimes, a book can be particularly funny, or endearing enough to cut through this for me – a recent example: How to Be Second Best by Jessica Dettman, but this is rare. I just don’t like reading about parents and their kid issues. They pale in comparison to real life and after a while, the spills, sassy back-chat, and endless rounds of mayhem cease to be funny. I’m also having an on again off again relationship with contemporary fiction at present. So there’s a few reasons why this one didn’t work for me, and it’s pretty much a clear cut case of ‘it’s not you, it’s me’.

I have no doubt that fans of contemporary fiction, especially chick-lit, will find much to enjoy in this novel.

Shelley from Book’d Out enjoyed The Sparkle Pages – check out her review here.

Thanks is extended to Penguin Random House Australia for providing me with a copy of The Sparkle Pages for review.

The Sparkle Pages
Published by Penguin Random House Australia
Released on 16th April 2019

26 thoughts on “Book Review: The Sparkle Pages by Meg Bignell – #DNF

  1. I know exactly what you mean about not wanting to read about life as you are currently living it.
    There’s a bit of a publishing fad for books about my generation dealing with ageing parents with dementia, because of course it is such a current situation for so many of us. I lived this situation myself very recently, and with my parents’ passing, and my mother-in-law still with us but fading, I just don’t want to read about it at all. It’s not so much that I read for escape, as not wanting to be reminded of something that is ever-present in my thoughts anyway. And I don’t need to identify or ‘relate to’ characters in the same situation – all around me I have friends in exactly the same place as I am.
    Just this morning I read a review of what sounds like a very fine book called Necessary Secrets by Greg McGee in New Zealand and I’ve put it on my wishlist, but it is just too raw for me to read right now, and I may not ever read it…

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s relieving to hear this Lisa, because I’ve read reviews on this from women who loved it because it was so close to their own lives. At least I feel a little less like there’s something wrong with me because I want the opposite from a reading experience.
      I have read a few of those books you mention, about caring for ageing parents. I have liked them, but then, I’m not living that right now. I’m sorry to hear about your own parents and your mother-in-law.
      I just looked up that book you mentioned, Necessary Secrets. It puts me in mind of one I read earlier this year, When All is Said by Anne Griffin. It was a five star read for me, but it was a essentially a sad book, and if I’d been in a position of caring for elderly parents, I may not have been able to read it.


      • I think it’s a matter of timing. I read Sally Hepworth’s The Things We Keep in 2016 while my father was still alive, and I found it encouraging because it showed that dementia didn’t have to be the awful scenario so often depicted, and indeed my father maintained many cognitive functions and was good company right up until the end. But my MIL has Alzheimer’s and that slow, cruel inexorable decline is much more distressing, especially for my husband who loves his mother dearly.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review Theresa although I’m a bit disappointed. I don’t like swearing in books and there are plenty of authors out there that can write great stories without the coarse language.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I can understand your reasons for struggling with this, my kids are all teens so I’m no longer in the weeds so to speak, though I know I felt similarly to you when I was. I do think this book is less about parenting than it may seem initially though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mine are teens too, 17, 15 and 13. But I just felt like her parenting issues were small potatoes compared to when you have teens. I long for the days where my biggest issue to deal with was spilt flour and food colouring and lost towels. My weeds are now, it was all roses back then. I found the whole thing too annoying to persevere with. And her obsessive focus on increasing the sex with her husband; it just wasn’t interesting for me.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Theresa, your honesty was refreshing. I read for escapism – I’ve never been a fan of misery in books, or books that remind us of the grind of everyday life. It doesn’t sound like my type of book but I admired the way you handled your review because you know the writer put their heart and soul into it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! The last thing I ever want to do is be scathing or dismissive. But I was given a copy by the publisher so I felt I should say something more about it than just, ‘didn’t like it’. Honestly, fans of chick-lit will rave about it. It’ll get its share of good reviews, I’m sure.


  5. I’m not living this life but still don’t want to read about it. I guess we’re all looking for different reading experiences (as you said) and if this wasn’t dinging your bells, it was probably a wise decision to set it aside and move on to something else. No guilt 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I find this about books with any form of cancer. My husband has had 3x cancerous tumours removed from various organs (the last was a tumour in his liver 12 months ago, which led to them removing 73% of his liver!) and I just don’t want to read about it. It honestly triggers me SO MUCH these days to read about cancer, especially if I don’t realise it’s a cancer book going in and it surprises me. I’ve lived enough of cancer recently thank you. And my husband still has cancerous cells somewhere, so it’s a waiting game hanging over our heads for the future anyway.

    And I’m similar on parenting books. I find young kids so unbelievable in books. So much mayhem and slapstick comedy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes! It all seems so overdone and most of the time I find the kids depicted in an overly naughty or precocious way. I just can’t spend my free time there.
      I am sorry to hear about your husband – 73% of his liver!! How is he now? How has that affected his quality of life, day to day?
      Cancer in books is hard going at the best of times, but no, this would clearly be off limits, I understand. I think books need more disclosure sometimes. There’s a fine line between trigger warnings and spoiling, but I think the heads up is important. There are just some things that people don’t want to read and they deserve to not shell out $$ for something they weren’t warned about.


      • He’s doing very well – he’s lucky that the liver grows back! The surgeon told me that for a man of his height/weight they needed to leave at least 25% after the surgery for functionality. So he was left with 27% and now a year later, it’s back to normal function. He was in hospital for 9-10 days though with that one and then off work for 6 weeks, so it was a long process. He’s lucky in that he hasn’t had to have any medicinal treatment in terms of chemo or anything. It’s been a concise tumour they’ve been able to remove each time in its entirety with surgery and although there are cancerous cells somewhere, they won’t give him chemo unless they have to because trying to target something like that with no real location/type does more harm than good. He has 3 monthly scans to catch anything early, should it develop.

        So yes, for me cancer is definitely a trigger. I’ve had to set books aside because of it, because they make me break out in a cold sweat reading them. And others I’ve dismissed from the TBR entirely if I find out they have cancer. And I have to say, a lot of books that cross my path these days contain cancer, even if it’s not a major plot point. I know it’s something so many people will experience (what’s the stat? 1 in 2 or 1 in 3 or something) but yeah it’s the last thing I want to spend my leisure time reading about now.

        Liked by 1 person

      • That’s so good, back to normal function in the year! That is lucky, not having to have chemo. My godson had an aggressive leukemia when he was four and the chemo has left him with long term damage to some organs. Better than death, obviously, but if you can be treated without it then clearly that’s ideal.
        Fingers crossed for you all for good health.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, I think that’s what they’re trying to avoid while they can, managing it with monitoring and surgery. Not that the surgeries are easy but at least they don’t carry long term side effects like that. Your poor nephew, what a thing to have to go through at any age but kids having to deal with that breaks my heart. Thank you, much appreciated 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I was so curious to see, clicking through to this review, what made you DNF this one – because the blurb makes it sound like great fun! But now I totally understand. I tend to be a bit discriminating with parenting-life books as well, but for different reasons – mostly that I’ve decided not to have children, precisely because that type of life just isn’t for me, so I don’t often enjoy spending time in it fictionally either (with the same exception as you, though, if it’s PARTICULARLY funny or endearing). ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

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