I can’t begin to review this book without mentioning that beautiful cover. The image above does not do it justice at all. Those pale pink looking bits are in fact a beautiful shimmering foil. This book was a very welcome surprise when it arrived a couple of weeks ago and when I read the back, I knew it was a book I would enjoy.
Susan Green is very, very set in her ways, most definitely on the autistic spectrum, When we meet her at the beginning of the book, her mother has just died provoking very little emotional response. She is also coming to terms with the surprising realisation that at the age of 45, she is pregnant for the first time – this was most definitely not in her plan! She enjoys living by herself in her small one bedroom flat but recognises that she will need somewhere bigger when the baby comes. The inheritance from the sale of her mother’s house will help with this. However, shockingly and unexpectedly, her mother had recently made a will granting her brother, Edward, lifetime rights to stay in the house. Convinced this cannot reflect her mother’s true wishes, she determines to challenge the will.
I found it interesting that there is a quote from Graeme Simsion on the cover as Susan is a very similar character to his Don Tillman from The Rosie Project. Like Don, she has a very rigid, ordered way of life which suits her perfectly and little understanding of others. Also like Don, she comes up against circumstances beyond her control which make her uncomfortable but force her to adapt and change. I really liked how Susan gradually had to adapt yet remained true to herself. She was frustrating to read about at times but then I don’t have that understanding of what it is to be autistic and her behaviour and reactions were perfectly logical to her. She did make me laugh a lot too though. One example was when she had to go into her neighbour’s house to look after her toddler daughter in an emergency situation. She is quite horrified at the state of the house. “I don’t see why having children should be an excuse for letting your standards slip. I’d be surprised if my own did.” I’m sure that many mothers (and fathers) would have a wry smile at that. I think we all have plans and ideas of what parenthood might be like which change very soon after that little person arrives and turns your life upside down!
I think that Susan is a character who becomes more endearing as you follow her through her pregnancy and her legal battles with her brother. I’d quite like to find out how Susan copes with motherhood so hoping there might be a sequel at some point. Susan is most certainly a quirky, memorable character and The Cactus is an assured debut from an author I’ll be watching out for in the future.
My thanks to the publishers Two Roads for my copy of the book. It is published today in hardback and as an ebook and you can order a copy online here: The Cactus
From the back of the book
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, and that’s all she needs.
At 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.
When she discovers that her mother’s will inexplicably favours her brother, Susan sets out to prove that Edward and his equally feckless friend Rob somehow coerced this dubious outcome. But when problems closer to home become increasingly hard to ignore, she finds help in the most unlikely of places.
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.
‘Glorious…it twists and turns through human nature wonderfully’ Kat Brown
‘If, like me, you never stopped to think what a child born of The Rosie Project‘s Don Tillman and Bridget Jones might be like, there’s one way to find out. Read Sarah Haywood’s The Cactus. Meet Susan Green. She doesn’t understand how funny she is, which is delicious.’ Julia Claiborne Johnson, author of Be Frank with Me