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One day I shall astonish the world by Nina Stibbe | book review

I didn’t like it.

I didn’t absolutely hate it, I finished it after all. 

I didn’t feel strongly about it at all, that’s probably the worst reaction to have towards a book, it was just meh.

I was bored by it, I think that may have been the point, I can’t be too sure.

One day I shall astonish the world tells the story of Susan over thirty years.

In the early 90s, Susan, a first student works part time at the Pin Cushion (a haberdashery) during the summer holidays. Working with Norma, they become friends. When Susan gets pregnant, she drops out of uni and marries Roy.

Norma goes on to thrive and has a very successful career as an English professor and poet, what Susan’s life could have been had she continued down the path she originally envisioned for herself.

The rest of the book charts Susan’s life through motherhood, her marriage, Roy’s obsession with living to a hundred, her eventual career at the university of Rutland.

Susan’s questioning the choices she’s made, the relationships she’s built and her 30-year friendship with Norma and that’s kind of it. Absolutely nothing happens…apart from the arrival of coronavirus at the end but I’ve had enough of that.

I hadn’t expected an action packed, thrill a minute read but I had expected more than a woman meandering through life. I think I expected some kind of resolution to Susan’s thoughts or for her to overhaul her life but there was nothing and by the end I just thought ‘huh, okay that was a waste of time’.

That wasn’t my only problem.

I simply could not get my head around the friendship between Susan and Norma.

I have read about and witnessed some toxic friendships in real life but how Susan hadn’t told Norma where to go is beyond me.

Norma was vile. A selfish, manipulative, user who looked down on Susan, treated her like shit and basically bullied her. 

It was bizarre. 

I found myself growing increasingly frustrated by the fact that Susan seemed unable to stand up for herself where Norma was concerned, she allowed herself to be picked up and disregarded constantly and I kept thinking ‘enough now’, no friendship is worth this.

Norma seemed to have one hell of an ego, telling Susan ‘I know you’re obsessed with me’ and offering no support when Susan fell pregnant, her only words being ‘I wouldn’t be in this situation’.

It seemed to me Norma only kept Susan around – and sometimes completely at arm’s length – so she could feel superior or something, she was basically an arse hole.

Susan goes out of her way to be liked; she could really do with reading The subtle art of not giving a fuck in my opinion.

The effect of all this was that I just didn’t really care for any of the characters and certainly didn’t relate to any of them, I just felt a bit meh about them all.

I do have some good points….

It is well written, it is witty. I liked some of the observations in there, I liked the humour in that was found in everyday life. 

I just wasn’t grabbed by the story. I certainly wasn’t left astonished, a shame really.

radiosarahc View All

Journalist, writer, traveller, music lover, collector of hats, news addict, bookworm

13 thoughts on “One day I shall astonish the world by Nina Stibbe | book review Leave a comment

  1. This does sound blah to me too. I have read books that I’ve felt like this too and even made the mistake of reading a second book by the author giving them the benefit of the doubt since so many others love their work. Thanks for sharing your honest thoughts on this one.

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  2. Great review! I’m sorry this was so disappointing for you, I definitely agree it’s the worst feeling when you don’t like it but you don’t hate it either! I think the friendship between Susan and Norma definitely would’ve bugged me too! Thank you so much for sharing x

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  3. I love the honesty of your review Sarah. I do agree that it would be better if you had hated this one. I understand the feeling of dissapointment you must have felt.

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