There is nothing conventional about Harper’s life, at least not when you’re a twelve-and-a half-year-old living in middle England in the 1980s and your parents are divorced. What a way to go charts Harper’s journey into teenagehood and navigates dating for divorcees and the complications of adult relationships, getting mortgages, cancer, activism and kissing boys.
Given the seriousness of the subject matter, Julia Forster cleverly infuses the prose with the wry humour of Harper’s childish perspective. Cultural references abound and it feels as if there is never a missed beat. This is sharp and polished writing.
It’s clear from the cover that this is a funny and nostalgic read, and I’m not normally drawn to those things (take what you will from that), but What a way to go is hard to put down and even when characters are using their own coffins as bookshelves, there is an upbeat nature to the story and writing that leaves the reader with a sense of hope. What a way to go picks you up and reminds you that there is a positive side to everything.
So drag those flammable shell suits from the bottom of the cupboard, grab some Baby sham or some gin, give your hair a good backcomb and set with hairspray, light up a fag and prepare to laugh your way through What a way to go. You won’t be disappointed.
Next week I’m reading Monstrous Little Voices: New Tales from Shakespeare’s Fantasy World edited by Jonathan Oliver and David Moore.