The Spa Break – Caroline James.

A spiritual book about friendship and self-discovery; about fun and laughter and using life experience to your advantage; about learning to grow old, graciously. A book about putting the most important person in your life (you) first and learning when to let go. A book about learning and loving. A book about love both lost and found, a book both of regret and delighting in that same life; about using life lessons learned to your advantage. This is lastly a book about knowing all the facts and making your own decision, as well as being open to and indeed able to change.

I must confess to loving to loving a cheeky little spa break, and I constantly have my nose in a book, so what better way to spend the day, than reading Caroline James’ latest novel, ’The Spa Break’. I love the idea of me having some relaxing time to myself, whilst reading about a strong group of women getting together for some well deserved downtime. Indeed upon first ’meeting’ the heroines of this novel, I couldn’t help but think what an ageless, eclectic group they seemed – pretty much guaranteed to bring fun to the table, and I loved the portmanteau to which we were introduced in chapter one – ‘Sparadise’.

It felt like a real treat to ’meet’ this group of unusual Women. What made this an unusual group – an exceptional group even, is the fact that each member was equally formidable in their own way. The dynamic of the group was outstanding.

The impromptu manner in the way which the group had fun, for example spontaneous stripping off and swimming whilst stopped for coffee, just added to the entertainment for us, the reader. The big question is though, whether or not the friends can let go of the outside world for just a few days, in order to encompass the magic that ’Sparadise’ has to offer. More importantly, can the group overcome the torments of the past, to create something better for themselves, each and every one of them.

I very quickly warmed to every one of the group of friends, but I don’t know how easy it would be for them to let go of the past, in order to embrace the future. One thing for certain was that I did feel so for Bridgette, with her bell tent – so far removed from what she had been imagining for herself. I for one, cannot imagine the pain and embarrassment at being too short to get up onto a really high bed! The spa however seemed able to anticipate everything though, with Bridgette finding a small ladder left to help her get into bed. Most of all though, I was mortified for Bridgette at the reaction of the jogging group, when they saw her after the incident with the field and the cowpat. Their reaction was unsolicited and downright rude. So what, if the mess hadn’t been from cows! Who cares! It really wasn’t their place to sumise. I felt like rubbing their perfect, snotty little noses into a cowpat! As for the spa – what on earth was wrong with them, pitching a load of upmarket glamping tents in a field full of cow pats?

This book was cleverly written and included moments (other than cowpat-gate) that were kind of funny, yet twinged with an underlying sadness, a kind of multi layering of emotions, an example being when Emily’s crotch repair didn’t hold, during her first yoga session. The moment started off as funny, and morphed into sadness, due to the fact that Emily was embarrassed by bullies essentially; what had been an initially funny moment ultimately plunged into the realms of awful, when one discovers how frugally Emily has lived her life after her Husband left her for another woman, never helping out with the children – explaining why she had ’made do’ with the crotch repair in the first place! Her Sons sound awful, relying on her for everything and I could see why she might need time away from them. I will however confess to a bit of a tea spurting out moment however, when the corporate team stating rapidly abandoned their boss at the spa, after they thought he had been shot in a terrorist incident, after an unfortunate episode with the cork from an illicit bottle of champagne!

Lars – what can I say about Lars, apart from the fact that I think we would all benefit from a massage by Lars!

Serena could not ask for better support than she got in Stevie and Robin. If you could somehow combine the role of wing men and Fairy God Father, then that would personify them – or would it? They do have a truly kind of ethereal quality to them – and come to think of it, do they they get any mentions from anyone else, other than as ’the guys who stole Bridgette’d suite.

I began to wonder whether the spa really did have some kind of magical power with the way that it made the friends look at themselves and their relationships. There must surely be something special about a place that makes you realise you have problems, when you didn’t realise you had any, and then empowers you to do something about it. I loved the symbolism and empowerment in this book, for example when Bridgette discards her swimsuit to go skinny dipping with Norman – surely a bit of a two fingered salute to her Husband and his demands that she should ‘return home immediately’! I loved the way that the characters in this book were still able to play the trump card of surprise – demonstrated most ably by Hugo, Bridgette’s Husband.

The Friends all seem to be having an absolute ball, in the grips of the spa, but can the alchemy last forever? The tenacious four seem to have gone from strength to strength, in the bosom of the spa, but will its hold have to decrease eventually?

I struggle to get the balance between telling you enough about this ’must read’ book, for you to want to read it for yourself, and giving too much away…… I hope that I have whetted your appetite enough, to make this wonderful read YOUR latest ’must read’.

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