Posted by signorad
I’ve had a lot more time to indulge in my favourite pastime lately – reading! And I’ve just finished reading Emma Burstall’s fantastic Gym and Slimline.
I don’t normally opt for books with a sporty theme – not being so sporty myself – but I do enjoying reading books with an evident friendship theme which emanates from close-knit groups and that’s exactly what you’ll find in Gym and Slimline: a group of very different women who meet at the south-west London gym where they are members and soon forge a long-lasting bond.
The health and fitness element is actually secondary to the trials and tribulations experienced by the female characters in the novel: hard-to-pronounce Persephone is distraught to realise that her marriage is on the rocks, leading to a not-so-harmless flirtation and a secret addiction; former ballerina Carmen is desperate to become a mum especially as she’s pushing forty – but is her commitment phobic boyfriend really father material? Stunning Patrice is eager to add to her family but hasn’t been intimate with her controlling husband, Jonty, for years. The only lucky one is career woman Suzanne who manages to juggle motherhood with a high-powered job and she’s managed to bag a sexy, young husband – but is her wonderful life all it seems…
I enjoyed reading this book from beginning to end and was so sorry when I finished it (if only I’d read it slower!) There were moments where you laughed out loud; felt anxious for the characters, and felt the tugging of heartstrings. As well as friendships, relationships, and health and fitness, there was also a theme of forgiveness that runs throughout the novel. A very dramatic and life-changing episode occurs in the middle of the novel which puts a huge strain on the women’s friendships: it divides two of the women drastically and pulls the other two in different directions. The ‘shock twist’ which creates the tension amongst the group isn’t really much of a shock as the preceding chapters had in fact been leading up to it but when the secret is revealed and the people involved exposed it still hits you like a roller-coaster. It was an original idea and very cleverly written.
But going back to the friendship theme, I love the strength of the women’s friendship that was illustrated in the novel – in fact you almost feel as if they’re your friends and feel quite protective of them. I hated the way Carmen’s ex, Simon, tried to worm his way back into her life when it suited him, and how Jonty controlled Patrice’s every move. Personally, I would have dumped him just for being called Jonty! But worst of all was Persephone’s – or Percy as she is known – predicament. A sweet, dependable lady who’s always trying to help other people, she cannot solve her own issues and you really feel for Percy when she becomes deeply entangled in her addiction. In fact there were times I wanted to scream at her to stop – but I would have attracted a lot of odd looks on the bus!
Gym And Slimline was the debut novel by author and journalist Burstall published in 2008 by Preface Publishing. A fantastic read – which I think might also make a great TV series.
Posted in The Reading Nook
Tags: 2008, author, book, characters, Emma Burstall, England, fiction, fitness, forgiveness, Friends, Friendship, gym, Gym And Slimline, Health, health and fitness, journalist, marriage, motherhood, novel, people, Physical exercise, physical wellbeing, Preface Publishing, relationship, relationships, United Kingdom, writer