I’ve just finished reading New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow – Jessica Redland’s latest book. As I had pre-ordered it, it popped up on my Kindle on publication day, earlier this week. When I discovered Jessica’s books a few months ago and saw that her latest series was called ‘Hedgehog Hollow’ I felt a little disappointed that she was moving away from the fictional Whitsborough Bay and into the Yorkshire Wolds. I needn’t have worried. What I most enjoy about Jessica’s writing (apart from the cracking tales and her skilled characterisation) is that, despite the easy to read ‘uplifting stories of love and friendship’, they are, in fact, much more than this and combine depth, humour and the pathos found in many real life difficult situations. What I’m trying to say is that they are much more than chick-lit. The Hedgehog Hollow series title reminded me of the set of books I bought just after my eldest son was born – The Brambly Hedge stories and because of that, without any grounds for doing so, I thought they might be a little too lighthearted for my taste.
My fears were unfounded. I enjoyed the first book, and enjoyed this latest one even more, partly because it gave some of the answers to the ‘why’ questions raised in the first, but there are other reasons too. The importance of being kind and the value of friendship are subjects about which I have written in my blog and these are areas which Jessica obviously feels strongly about too; both qualities shine through her books. Perhaps this is why I like them so much.
One of the themes running through the first two hedgehog books (and which will undoubtedly continue into book 3 – due out in May) is the exceptionally fraught relationship between protagonist Samantha and her mother and this particularly resonated because I have, to some extent, been there. My mother was nothing like Samantha’s but we did have a very difficult relationship and I often felt growing up (and indeed in the early days of motherhood) that I never quite reached the level of daughter-suitability that her friends’ daughters did. Subsequently there were times when I was conscious that my own my children didn’t always quite make the grade as grandchildren. It’s difficult to describe since she clearly loved us all, but appearances were paramount to my mother and my hippy-type clothing, my choice of long-haired husband, and later my son’s offbeat appearance attracted frequent though veiled criticism as we were compared to others. It was subtle and if ever I tackled her about it she would feign total shock and be upset. Nevertheless it continued unabated. My brother and I have occasionally touched on the subject of having a difficult mother (interestingly not until recent years when we were almost shocked and perhaps vindicated, to find that we had both felt the same). Despite being well looked after, well fed and clothed, always having a holiday and being given whatever our parents could afford, and having a wonderful father, we both feel cheated out of a better mother-child relationship.
Phew – I didn’t plan that when I decided to write about Hedgehog Hollow!