The Strange Year of Vanessa M - Filipa Fonseca Silva (2013)

Vanessa, a thirty-something wife and mother, seems to have the perfect life: married to a devoted husband and mother to a small daughter. Yet appearances can be deceptive. Vanessa increasingly feels overwhelmed in her life; feeling hemmed in by her responsibilities: stifled by her family and hating her job with her bullying boss. Falling into a depression, she has a mid-life crisis and her behaviour drastically changes. As she sees her life unravelling, she walks away from her family and seeks refuge with her hippy aunt. The book charts Vanessa's depression and her journey to reclaim her life and sanity. This was a very perceptive book which I think a lot of women could relate to. Vanessa is a lost character: in her past she has suffered the loss of her father to suicide and also had to deal with an overbearing mother. This has shaped Vanessa's character in that she has become too accepting and has put the needs of others before herself. She has drifted into situations, letting them control her rather than asserting her own opinions and needs. However, the suppression of her feelings has caused the inevitable mid-life crisis. It is only when Vanessa confronts the issues in her life that she can finally move forward to heal. This was an interesting read and deals with a lot of themes which female readers particularly can identify with. The plot is well executed and the author really stirs the readers' emotions with the story of Vanessa. The story really makes you think and gives credence to the adage that we are all masters of our own fate, if only we are brave enough to realise. (LP)

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