The Cactus – Sarah Haywood

About the book:

It’s never too late to bloom … People aren’t sure what to make of Susan Green – family and colleagues find her prickly and hard to understand, but Susan makes perfect sense to herself.

Age 45, she thinks her life is perfect, as long as she avoids her feckless brother, Edward – a safe distance away in Birmingham. She has a London flat which is ideal for one; a job that suits her passion for logic; and a personal arrangement providing cultural and other, more intimate, benefits.

Yet suddenly faced with the loss of her mother and, implausibly, with the possibility of becoming a mother herself, Susan’s greatest fear is being realised: she is losing control. And things can only get worse … at least in Susan’s eyes.

This sparkling debut is a breath of fresh air with real heart and a powerful emotional punch. In Susan we find a character as exasperating and delightful as The Rosie Project’s Don Tillman. An uncompromising feminist and a fierce fighter, it’s a joy to watch her bloom.

My Review: I’m on a mission to read as many books as possible with “quirky” characters and when Richard & Judy announced The Cactus as part of their Autumn Book Club choices it seemed perfect timing to start this book.

Firstly, I absolutely HATE it when books are compared to other books/characters etc and when the Sunday Times said “‘The Cactus will be compared to Gail Honeyman’s 2017 hit, the appealingly eccentric Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine” I try to take it with a pinch of salt and read it with an open mind.  Just because both of the main characters are quirky, independent, individual women it doesn’t necessarily mean the book should be compared, but I must admit I did see lots of similarities so if you enjoyed Eleanor, I am pretty confident The Cactus will appeal too.

So, on to the book; it took me a while to warm to Susan, our main character.  A fiercely independent, middle aged single woman who is in control of every teeny, tiny aspect of her life until her mother dies unexpectedly.  Having to deal with her mothers Last Will and final wishes, face up to her brother Edward with whom she has a very bitter and hostile relationship, Susan has to cope with some harrowing home truths whilst re-examining into her childhood and past.

I didn’t really feel much sympathy or empathy for Susan initially, but at one point in the book EVERYTHING changed for me, I shed a little tear and started rooting and cheering for this lovely, quirky and misunderstood character.

Overall I thought The Cactus was a charming, heartwarming and feelgood story and thoroughly recommend it.

About the Author: Sarah Haywood was born in Birmingham. After studying Law, she worked in London and Birkenhead as a solicitor, in Toxteth as an advice worker, and in Manchester as an investigator of complaints about lawyers. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Manchester Metropolitan University, and lives in Liverpool with her husband, two sons and two ginger cats.

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