Book review: The Changing Room by Jane Turley
How can one frock, albeit in a gorgeous Caribbean blue shade which matches Sandy’s eyes, transform both her view of the world and how others perceive a seemingly ordinary 45-year-old wife, mother and daughter?
In a gorgeous rom-com which reaches the fast-beating heart of every middle-aged woman’s secret hopes and fears, Jane Turley conjures up a warm, hilarious and wonderfully wise tale of love, loss and laughter.
As author of the long-standing blog The Witty Ways of a Wayward Wife, Turley is no stranger to combining humour and pathos in her writing, and The Changing Room works the same irresistible magic.
‘Today, I am in the changing room of my life and tomorrow, win or lose, I’ll move forward a stronger and wiser woman,’ pledges Sandy Lovett even though she knows it won’t be easy.
The last few years have been a struggle. Her self-employed husband Dave’s construction business is forever teetering, her job at the local furniture store is unrewarding, her three children need her constant attention, and her beloved mother is sinking under the confusion of Alzheimer’s.
On top of that, there are the demands of being a member of her daughter Tabby’s highly competitive school PTA and the worry of trying to keep student son Andy solvent. Little wonder that such a chaotic lifestyle is causing her waistline to expand at an alarming rate.
Sandy knows she needs to change her life but doesn’t know how until she buys a rather lovely but risqué dress which makes her feel ‘a different woman’ and sets in motion a sequence of life-changing events.
After years as a mother, carer and full-time worker, Sandy quits her job and puts her mother in a care home. Finally, life seems on the up but disaster is never far away as her mother’s bizarre obsessions continue to wreak havoc and Dave’s business start to fail.
Short of cash and needing a flexible job, Sandy joins her friend’s clandestine sex-chat service, The Beaver Club, and discovers a latent talent for selling telephone sex.
It’s a skill she later regrets when she meets unscrupulous local politician and prospective MP Trewin Thackeray, ‘a cross between Disraeli and a gentleman cad,’ who is set on crushing her new-found ambitions…
Turley exploits her natural talent for lively humour – and the everyday dramas and tragedies that many overstretched mothers, daughters and housewives will recognise – in a story that veers from slapstick to soulful at the turn of a page.
The Changing Room captures perfectly the dilemmas of women torn between their own desires and their duties to their family without losing sight of the possibility that changes can be wrought with a dollop of determination and a sprinkling of fickle fate.
Funny and fast-paced, intelligent and ultimately life-affirming, this is a story to imbibe with a glass in hand!
(Sweet and Salty Books, paperback, £9.99)