Desert Isle Keeper
Second Time Around
Going back to early favourites can be frightening, for fear that memory played tricks on you. When I decided to re-read and review the first chick lit book I ever read, I was a bit anxious. But luckily for me and my peace of mind, I found that Second Thyme Around stands up to both time and closer scrutiny.
Admittedly, a large part has to do with the plot pushing all the right buttons. I like second chances at love, and I particularly like marriages gone wrong. I like chefs, restaurants, and gardening, and I like any character over the age of 80 who is depicted with respect, as well as quirkiness. Most of all, I like the idea of a woman who pulled herself from the ruins of a marriage and became a confident entrepreneur.
She is Perdita Dylan and he is Lucas Gillespie. They married young after a whirlwind romance, but neither was equipped for marriage, and they soon divorced. Ten years later Perdita is back living in her home village in rural England, staying close to her octogenarian Aunt Kitty, and running a barely profitable market gardening business that supplies the local upscale hotel restaurant. One day when she pops into the hotel for morning deliveries, she finds that the new chef is none other than her ex-husband Lucas.
Over the course of the next year, Perdita will change, and despite being nearly thirty, she will also grow up. She will have to get to know Lucas all over again, re-evaluate her role in their marriage, and come to terms with life and death. These are familiar themes, but Ms. Fforde addresses them wittily and sympathetically. The secret is treading the line between light-hearted and stupid. Perdita, like almost all chick lit heroines, does and says some rather scatty things, but her mistakes and foibles make her human, not stupid, and we can see that beneath the scruffy exterior is a capable, determined woman.
The secondary cast, composed primarily of Perdita and Lucas’ employees, provide well-rounded colour to the community, and special mention goes to Aunt Kitty, whom I found a delight. But most of the sparkling dialogue belongs to Perdita and Lucas. Their youthful marriage didn’t only fail because Lucas was unfaithful; Perdita is forced to acknowledge that her earlier passivity had a part in the marriage’s dissolution, and I really appreciate the honest look at adultery as a symptom rather than a cause of divorce. I bought their new relationship, because as Perdita realizes, it’s like being with a completely different person. Gone are the airy-fairy, naïve artist and ambitious, hot-headed stockbroker and in their places are two different people, although Lucas’s crotchety, ill-tempered exterior belies the changes underneath. Although we never get his point of view, Lucas’s personality and growing love for Perdita shine abundantly through his actions.
My one complaint is that as much as I like and relate to Perdita, I find her wilful denseness towards the end a bit tiresome, even though she has undergone considerable personal turmoil. However, it is a small criticism. Since I first picked the book off a library shelf, I’ve read many other books considered a part of the light-hearted chick lit genre, but Second Thyme Around holds a special place in my heart as a book that has both lightness and heart.