Tuesday, 16 September 2014
If I was to tell you that this book is about a family of misfits and their story mainly takes place in a car with a flatulent dog, you may think twice about buying it. If the story had been described to me in this way, I too may have passed it by as a holiday read. Oblivious to its contents and having loved Me Before You and The Girl You Left Behind, I packed The One Plus One into my case, along with several other novels, and set off to the Greek Isles last week. Once I started this book, I became instantly absorbed with the storyline and its characters.
Jess Thomas is a flip-flop-wearing single mother who works several jobs to make ends meet. She has two children; a daughter called Tanzie who has a talent for mathematics and a make-up-wearing stepson called Nicky who's addicted to playing video games. Unfortunately, Nicky's eccentric appearance singles him out and he's picked on by bullies. Nicky’s story is perhaps the most heart-breaking. “You looked like a freak, you got battered," he says of his neighbourhood. Even away from home Nicky can't escape the bullies thanks to the Internet. He's quiet and reserved but he releases his anguish in a blog, as suggested by Ed. Ed Nichols is one of Jess' clients who she cleans for. He's a millionaire who's made his own fair share of mistakes and is about to lose everything.
When Tanzie is offered a chance to compete in a Mathematics Olympiad with a chance to receive 90 per cent funding to study at a top school, Jess, Nicky and Tanzie, along with their smelly dog, attempt to drive to Scotland from the south of London to the competition. Unfortunately Jess' ex-husband's car in untaxed and she doesn't have any insurance. Before long, she is stopped by the police and the car is towed away.
Ed Nicholls just happens to be driving past when he spots the family on the roadside with the police.
Here starts a touching, emotional, yet hilarious journey to Scotland, a journey that takes several days because Tanzie is sick if the car goes above 40 mph! After a few days travelling, magic begins to take place. This quirky, makeshift family grow closer and begin to save each other. Ed uses his technological know-how to teach Nicky how to fight back against the bullies and Jess persuades Ed to face his demons and visit his dying father.
The One Plus One is a beautifully written, poignant and utterly compelling novel. I laughed out loud on my sunbed and also wiped away a tear. It's a charming, life-affirming story that I found difficult to put down. Who'd have thought that I'd be totally absorbed in a story about travelling in the rain in England whilst lying on the beach in 30 degrees?
Jojo Moyes is a novelist and a journalist. She worked at the Independent for ten years before leaving to write full time. Her previous novels have all been critically acclaimed and include The Ship of Brides, Foreign Fruit, The Last Letter From Your Lover, Me Before You and The Girl you Left Behind. She lives in Essex with her husband and their three children.