I’m a big fan of Ruth Jones’ acting as well as the wonderful characters she’s created in her writing work for television. “Gavin and Stacey” holds a special place in my heart for putting Barry, my hometown, on the map for many across the UK. So, it was with great excitement that I picked up Jones’ debut novel, Never Greener. (There was one metaphor—fruitlessly searching for the handset like one of those grabber machines in a seedy seaside arcade—that made me smile early on. I wondered if it was a purposeful nod to Barry Island. 🙃)
The book starts by introducing Callum, a charismatic, rough-and-ready, rugby-playing man’s man who is contemplating just how lucky he is and how much he loves his heavily pregnant wife, Belinda. A few pages later he’s doing Belinda dirty with Kate, an impulsive and unapologetically self-absorbed 22-year-old, who the 39-year-old Callum has only just met. We’re taken on the tale of how this pair’s fatal attraction unfolds over the next 17 years.
I have complicated feelings about Never Greener.
I didn’t develop particularly strong feelings for either of the main characters, I just found them faintly dislikable. It was difficult to invest in these self-destructive characters who spent so much time living in the far-off past. This extended to one of the secondary characters, Hettie, who was still yearning for her University fling (despite his awful treatment of her) 14 years later. That said, I still found myself flicking through each page with some interest at what was going to happen. I think we’ve all spent some time living in the past and can relate to the realisation we’ve been wearing rose-tinted glasses.
Although this book was simply an okay story that won’t change my life, I did appreciate Jones’ ability to develop and keep me interested in what happened to the characters. I hope this isn’t the last novel we’ll see from her.