by Liz Tipping
178 pages, Carina
Review by Hereward L.M. Proops
I don’t read much outside my comfort zone at the moment. I’ve reached that stage of my life where I know what I like and what I don’t like. With two young children at home, I don’t have the luxury of a significant amount of time to read, so when I do dive into a book, I want to be sure that what I’m diving into is going to be fun. That might account for why I’ve taken to re-reading books rather than seeking out new ones. It also might explain why I’ve been so quiet of late on the mighty ‘Squawk.
I have to say, I put off reading “Five Go Glamping” for some time. Although digitally acquainted with the author from our days together on the now-defunct HarperCollins Authonomy website, I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Liz Tipping. When I heard she’d bagged an agent and an ebook deal with publishers Carina, I was very happy for her. I’d always felt that the working title “Five Go Glamping” was a truly brilliant one but my tendency to avoid ‘chick-lit’ led me to start wondering if I would ever get round to reading the novel itself.
And then it happened. My ageing Kindle went on the blink (don’t worry, it’s fine now - it just needed a bit of rest and recuperation). I found myself stranded one afternoon whilst waiting for my daughter to come out of her ballet class with nothing to read. I found the Kindle app on my phone and discovered that “Five Go Glamping” was the only book downloaded on it. With forty minutes to kill and nothing better to do, I started reading… and I am extremely glad I did.
The protagonist of “Five Go Glamping” is Fiona, a twenty-something young woman living in Birmingham. She has an uninspiring job and a music-promoter boyfriend who spends a lot of time away from her but occasionally drops by her flat to get his laundry done. Fiona lives frugally, cooking meals in bulk and freezing them, limiting herself to a few drinks in the pub when she goes out with her mates, even working overtime on Saturday. Fiona’s sacrifices are all carried out in the name of her five year plan, whereby she and her boyfriend will put enough money aside to be able to put down a deposit on a house of their own. The only problem is Connor, the absentee boyfriend, who does not seem to be putting so much aside and spends far too much on fancy haircuts.
When Fiona and her friends are offered a free ‘glamping’ holiday at the Find Yourself Festival, they jump at the chance. After all, the hippy festival is being held close-by to the Castle music festival so Fiona might get the chance to spend some rare quality time with her boyfriend. The only catch is that they have to participate in some of the New Age activities in order to qualify for their free accommodation in a yurt. Naturally, this leads to some amusing scenes where a group of city girls, their gay male friend and a dog called Brian Harvey find themselves faced with plates of mung bean casserole and the challenge of balancing their chakras. Some of the funniest parts of the novel are when Tipping pokes fun at ‘alternative’ healing festivals (two characters are named “Crazy Trousers” and “Weird Beard” whilst one of Fiona’s friends has a deep-seated loathing for women with mirrors on their skirts).
Being a chick-lit novel, things aren’t going to go smoothly for poor Fiona. By the time she agrees to go on the holiday with her pals, she already has her doubts about Connor’s level of commitment to the relationship. On top of that, she’s found herself suspended from work and due a formal disciplinary hearing after getting into an altercation with her line manager over her favourite mug. To make things worse, upon arrival at the festival, it becomes clear that Connor isn’t going to be available to spend time with her.
Enter Sam, the handsome landlord of the local pub. Although attracted to him, Sam’s laid-back attitude to life puts Fiona off at first. However, the old adage that opposites attract proves true and a few chance encounters bring the two closer together. Soon, Fiona has fallen for the easy-going pint-puller who doesn’t even own a smartphone and is torn between her loyalty for Connor and a chance of a new way of life with Sam.
As I mentioned earlier, “Five Go Glamping” is not my typical sort of read. I don’t run screaming from romantic comedies but their tendency to be rather predictable leads me to zone out whilst watching them. I’ve often wondered what is the point in following a protagonist’s journey if it is abundantly clear where they are going? “Five Go Glamping” may well have helped me overcome this notion. Sure, it’s obvious that Fiona will ditch Connor and end up with Sam right from the first moment Fiona takes note of his well-muscled arms and snug-fitting t-shirt. We all know that Sam’s relaxed manner is going to infuriate Fiona for a while before she realises that she’s falling in love with him. Despite the predictable nature of the outcome, this novel held my attention from beginning to the end. Why? Because Liz Tipping writes extremely well. Her characters are believable and never come across as mere talking heads. Her jokes are genuinely funny. The moments of pathos elicit the right emotions at the right times. Most importantly, the novel is just the right length - it’s not so short you can blast through it in one sitting but it’s not so long that it overstays its welcome.
“Five Go Glamping” is an engaging, highly entertaining novel. Accessible, witty, and romantic without resorting to slush or sentimentality. Liz Tipping’s confident debut establishes her as an author to watch in the future. If her follow-up novel is as good as this one, Sophie Kinsella and Freya North might have to start looking over their shoulders.
Hereward L.M. Proops
Read the author interview here.