Happiness for Beginners by Carole Matthews
Publishing Date: 21st February 2019
Source: Received from the publisher, thank you!
Number of pages: 464
Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Women’s Fiction
Molly Baker is living her best life.
Thirty-eight years old, she lives on the twenty-five-acre Hope Farm in Buckinghamshire, surrounded by (mostly) four-legged friends and rolling hills. There’s Anthony the anti-social sheep, Tina Turner the alpaca with attitude, and the definitely-not-miniature pig, Teacup.
Molly runs the farm as an alternative school for kids who haven’t thrived in mainstream education. It’s full on, but she wouldn’t have it any other way. So when the well-groomed Shelby Dacre turns up at Hope Farm asking to enrol his son Lucas, Molly isn’t fazed.
But Lucas is distant and soon Molly realises he might be more of a handful than she anticipated. And then there’s the added problem that his dad is distractingly handsome. Molly has her beloved farm to think of – could letting Lucas and Shelby in be a terrible mistake, or the start of something wonderful?
Molly Baker is a shy, single and also lovely and welcoming woman, running Hope Farm in Buckinghamshire, which she inherited from her beloved Aunt Hettie. It doesn’t bother her that she lives in an ancient caravan, with neither TV not shower, the main thing is that her animals and students are happy. Students – because the farm is also an alternative school for children with learning difficulties, autism, behavioural problems. One of the new students, Lucas, finds a way to Molly’s heart – his father finds this way as well but because of their totally different life styles it’s a recipe for a guaranteed heartbreak, right? Also, Molly’s farm, that is so much more to her than only a farm, it’s her home, a place to live and to bring happiness, is facing being closed down for good. Will she manage to save the farm and her heart?
I haven’t mentioned any lovely covers lately and this one deserves a standing ovation. It’s gorgeous, and I love this beautiful yellow colour – you can feel spring in the air only by looking at this cover, and the little flowers dotted around are so lovely. And it is as uplifting and full of warmth as the book itself.
I loved Hope Farm, it was simply my kind of heaven, even with all of its inconveniences. OK, I’d maybe need a TV and a good internet connection but I so could live with the rest, just like Molly. I know it is said one shouldn’t work with children and animals but I work with both and I am still going, so it can’t be that bad, right, and so I immediately connected with Molly and could resonate with her on all levels. I also feel the best in my wellies and I always smell of dogs and horses treats. The assortment of animal at the farm was absolutely perfect, and their personalities were very, very well captured by the author.
But Hope Farm was not only about animals, and here comes the great idea – it was to help children who couldn’t find help anywhere else, it was their last chance saloon – they, usually already excluded from schools, could come to the farm and learn how to be around animals, some practical skills as well, and also learn from animals and about them being so good at simply being there. I totally loved all of the animals on the farm, they were all so special, and well, yes, it weren’t only the pupils that had problems but the animals as well. The children react to animals, learn to bond with them, to open to them and to develop the so much needed self confidence, and it was incredibly important for them, and it was really well described by the author.
I immediately fell for Molly. Immediately. Her love and passion to the things she has devoted herself to was overwhelming and palpable. She really knows what her animals of all shapes and sizes need, and her students as well. She was so chilled and relaxed and I really could get her reluctance to engage with other people. Her side – kicks Bev and Alan were also special, absolutely loveable and it was impossible not to like them. The story is told from Molly’s point of view and her narration is flowing, it’s chatty and honest, and the short chapters are what I really like in Carole Matthews’ books.
I always appreciate the fact that Carole Matthews tries to touch upon more serious issues in her books as well, of course with this gentle touch of humour. This time she’s factoring children with learning difficulties and dealing with grief – through Lucas, still grieving for his dead mother, feeling neglected by his father, lonely and mobbed at school. Molly tries to come through to Lucas, get him to open up and quickly she finds herself involved not only in his life but also this of his father’s, the famous soap opera actor Shelby Dacre. The relationship between Molly and Lucas, and actually between Molly and all of her charges, was so genuine and heart-warming and it was a real pleasure to read about them.
Even though you know from the very beginning that the book is going to end with a happy end, it is still full of moments that are going to make your heart stop beating, and you’re going to keep everything crossed for Molly and her charges. Because – of course – life is not a bed of roses for Molly and her farm, and she’s struggling financially, but there is also one small problem of finding a new place for the farm. Why? Read for yourself, you’re really going to fall for Molly and Hope Farm.
This book would be perfect if it weren’t so slow. I loved this story, and the characters – it was warm, funny and uplifting but not too sappy but I had a feeling that it doesn’t move, that we stay in one place, that the one idea has been taken and written on thousand different ways. As much as I enjoyed reading it, I simply wished for something to happen, for something refreshing to arrive and take us by surprise. And this time I missed the depth a little.
However, altogether, “The Happiness for Beginners” was a funny, uplifting and overflowing with charm story, full of the feel – good factor that I know I can expect from Ms Matthews’s books. Carole Matthews is simply a natural storyteller. She has a way with words and she describes her characters in such a way that you quickly feel like knowing them all since childhood, and not only the main characters, but also the secondary ones as well. She makes them relatable, genuine and realistic. The book was emotional, it was funny and poignant at the same time, a great mix of laughter, tears, emotions and feelings. You won’t want to miss it!