In a departure from my usual reading matter, I spent last night denying the possibility of yet more snow, by taking to my bed with a hot water bottle and a Kindle copy of Melissa Ford’s first novel Life From Scratch, and from the very first page found myself gripped by what could have been a series of scenes from my own life. If I lived in America. Didn’t have Finley, lost ten years and twice as many pounds and er, well quite a few other teeny details really, but even so here was a book that resounded with me and had me nodding along and rooting for it’s heroine…
It could I suppose be described as a fictional version of Julie and Julia, only without the kind of irritating whine (and manky details that left me fearing for Julie’s health: cat in the ceiling and bugs under the draining board? Hello??) that ultimately made me want to throw that particular book at the wall. In the aftermath of a miserable separation from her husband, and tired of a lifetime of take-outs and restaurant meals, Rachel decides she wants to learn to cook, and chooses to blog her progress, in order to spur herself on and help her find the voice she never really discovered in her marriage.
And that she does, and what a fiesty, entertaining on-line character she turns out to be! Finding the freedom of the internet both liberating and companionable, she sets about documenting everything from the details of her breakfast to the meals she starts cooking for a series of disappointing dates, and soon grabs herself an enviable audience fascinated not just by the recipes she shares, but very quickly by the romantic soap opera that becomes her life and all that she writes between the lines as she offers up her heart on a plate to a rather scrumptious Spaniard who turns out to be….. well, obviously I’m not going to tell you anything further than that, nor I am going to say anything more about the story beyond telling you that it has a quietly, lovely ending that left me smiling.
In many ways Life From Scratch is good old fashioned chick lit of the kind I am rarely engrossed by enough to want to share with you here, but what sets it apart is that it is written by a bona-fide blogger, Melissa Ford from Stirrup-Queens who having enjoyed success online herself, has managed to translate the experience of what it is to run a blog, in all it’s needy, demanding glory, and more than that, what it is to be a blogger at a time when real life no longer offers the certainty of the world you once knew.
I related because I’ve been there. Way back when Mark left, this blog held me up. Comforted me and sent me gentle kisses of reassurance from lands far away just when I needed it most. My writing then was raw. Probably painful to read and often, surely, desperately dull, because let’s face it, there’s only so much of other peoples grief, other’s should be expected to endure isn’t there??
But still I rambled on, and once a warm Summer had tanned my skin and I had started a minor love affair with red wine, salt and vinegar crisps and a man from Newcastle: Brocantehome, and you, my audience became my confidantes, and bore witness to all my giddy delight, minor hysterics and all growed up heartbreak, when said Newcastle man called time on what I had hoped was for life. And still I kept on writing. About housework and poetry and all the things the site was supposed to be about. And still you were there. Even when the posts I put up were nothing more than thinly veiled pleas to the Newcastle man to follow his heart instead of his head. To meet me in the New England he promised we would always have. To beam me up. Even when rage got a grip of me me and anger spilled down my fingers and spelled out it’s name in peeved posts I should never have published.
And we all giggled at how very tragic I had become and I kept on looking for the bright side and occassionally threw myself under a dark cloud and wept or sent myself out on a series of ludicrously disastrous dates that are a book all by themselves.
Forgive me now, four years on? My childish heart was smashed to bits.
Just like Rachel’s heart is smashed in Life From Scratch and her blog’s audience, too, turns out to be the support system she could never have known she could depend on.
Thank goodness her story, like mine, has a happy ending! Read it, laugh out loud, chuckle and weep. It’s worth it and something about supporting the writing endeavours of one of our own does my soul good.