Book review: The Awkward Age By Francesca Segal

This month I was sent the fourth book in the Mumsnet BookClub, Francesca Segal’s second novel, The Awkward Age. Her first novel, The Innocents, won the Costa First Novel Award and so I had high expectations from her second novel and couldn’t wait to start reading.

The Awkward age tells the story of Julia, a widowed music teacher, who falls in love with James, a divorced obstetrician, who have seized the opportunity for a second chance at happiness.  Julie and James both have children from their previous relationships – Gwen and Nathan – who we soon come to realise, can’t stand each other.

What we don’t realise is, there’s a fine line between love and hate.

The novel initially takes us through the problems which blended families face, learning to accommodate each other, make sacrifices and compromise, learning to accept that whilst falling in love with a new partner may seem like the most natural thing in the world, for children, and especially for teenagers, it can be incredibly hard.

Throughout the first few chapters I felt increasingly frustrated with Gwen who, at sixteen, was behaving like a petulant child, and yet as the novel progressed we learn a little more about why Gwen is acting this way and start to feel sorry for her. Whilst  Julia and James are so caught up in their quest for the perfect family, they neglect to realise that Gwen is still grieving for her Father and struggles to allow others into the tight unit she has built with Julia over the last five years.

It doesn’t take long to realise that, although on the surface Julia and James have a wonderful relationship, the seams fast start to become undone. We soon realise that, whilst the children are indeed a catalyst in their arguments, they are not the sole cause of the apparent breakdown of their relationship. And although I don’t doubt that Julia and James love each other, whether they are compatible as a couple does come into question.

As a reader there is a real sense of voyeurism throughout the story, as though we are always on the edge of private moments, eavesdropping on a conversation, witnessing arguments spoken in hushed whispers, party to the secrets and lies within a family who are struggling to survive. I felt that it was easy to foresee the series of events before they actually unfolded, and yet when the truth is out (something I won’t spoil for you!), what happens next was still quite surprising!

I have always loved to read books with a happy ending, it comes from my own quest to find my happy ever after, and yet The Awkward Age doesn’t promise you that. Francesa Segal doesn’t pretend that love is easy, nor that it is for always, and yet what she does promise you is a true insight into the reality of navigating your way through life, through love, and through heartache. By the time I came to the end of the book I felt emotionally exhausted, and I couldn’t shake the question in my mind, but what happens next??

Unlike Eleanor Olephant or The Cows, The Awkward Age isn’t a book that I would pick up and read again, and yet that doesn’t take away from the fact that it was well written and told a very real, if not slightly uncomfortable, story. I would definitely recommend others to read it, just remember to buckle up for a rollercoaster of emotions!


** I was gifted this book as a member of the Mumsnet Book Club. All words and opinions are my own. **







  1. May 3, 2018 / 5:37 pm

    Oh my this sounds like an intriguing read and an emotional one too. Like you, I am always looking for a happy ending I think as a respite from the chaos of life and a bit of easy light relief….it’s a relatively new thing (!!) and I think a book that leaves me saying “what next” would annoy me!!

    • Laura Dove
      May 4, 2018 / 9:09 pm

      At first I was a bit annoyed thinking how can you leave me hanging? But then I guess the beauty of a book like that is that you can imagine whatever ending you want! xx

  2. May 3, 2018 / 7:13 pm

    It sounds like it could be a tough read but a worthwhile one. I’ve recently read Eleanor Oliphant and loved it but could be persuaded by something a little different.

    • Laura Dove
      May 4, 2018 / 9:11 pm

      Oh I loved Eleanor Oliphant! This is a good read Cath, just leaves you feeling a little frustrated somehow! XX

  3. May 3, 2018 / 7:28 pm

    This sounds a really good book. Will have to see if WH Smith has a copy next time I am about to board the train.

    • Laura Dove
      May 4, 2018 / 9:11 pm

      Oh yeah there’s nothing better than a long train journey and a good book! xx

  4. May 3, 2018 / 7:57 pm

    This sounds like an intense read! I do tend to go for books with happy endings. It’s great when a book is so vivid and read that the emotions creep off the page to the reader

    • Laura Dove
      May 4, 2018 / 9:11 pm

      Me too but I think it’s good to try something a little different! xx

  5. May 3, 2018 / 8:36 pm

    That sounds like a really interesting book, I will add that to my reading list.

    • Laura Dove
      May 4, 2018 / 1:10 pm

      It’s well worth a read Nikki! xx

    • Laura Dove
      May 4, 2018 / 1:08 pm

      Yes! Exactly that! xx

  6. May 4, 2018 / 6:52 am

    Sounds like a good read. I still haven’t read Eleanor Oliphant which a lot of people are recommending so I need to add both to my list!! x

    • Laura Dove
      May 4, 2018 / 1:08 pm

      I loved both but Eleanor Oliphant is my favourite!! xx

  7. May 4, 2018 / 6:58 am

    This sounds like a really interesting book taking you on a journey of different emotions! I’d love to read this one!

    • Laura Dove
      May 4, 2018 / 1:07 pm

      Yes its well worth a read! xx

    • Laura Dove
      May 4, 2018 / 1:07 pm

      I recommend it if you fancy a good read! xx

    • Laura Dove
      May 4, 2018 / 8:26 pm

      It’s well worth a read! xx

  8. May 4, 2018 / 9:21 am

    I have not seen this book before. I will have to see if I can see it in the shops and check it out 🙂

    • Laura Dove
      May 4, 2018 / 1:06 pm

      It’s a great book Claire, just an emotional rollercoaster too! xx

  9. May 4, 2018 / 12:06 pm

    I like an emotional read from time to time 🙂 Yesterday my friend told me about Francesca Segal, today I bumped into this review, whcih clearly means that I need to check out her books 🙂

    • Laura Dove
      May 4, 2018 / 12:57 pm

      Oh yes! It definitely sounds like a sign! xx

  10. May 4, 2018 / 1:11 pm

    Oo this sounds like an interesting read – although I find ‘what happened next?’ books frustrating, I am also drawn towards them. It’s a clever way for the author to get you hooked 🙂

    • Laura Dove
      May 4, 2018 / 9:12 pm

      Yes! It’s interesting to imagine how you think it will go too! xx

  11. May 4, 2018 / 7:43 pm

    I’m intrigued by this book now, after reading this and I’m do like an emotional rollercoaster. I’ll add this to my list, I’m still reading Cows x

    • Laura Dove
      May 4, 2018 / 9:12 pm

      It’s good Laura, it’s just not a book I would pick up and read again and again! xx

  12. May 4, 2018 / 8:36 pm

    Sounds like a great book from Francesa Segal. We love eves dropping on other people’s complicated lives in novels. The surprise sounds intriguing x

    • Laura Dove
      May 4, 2018 / 9:13 pm

      Yes and I think that’s the beauty of a good writer giving us that insight! xx

  13. May 4, 2018 / 8:42 pm

    Ahh, I;ve read this one, I loved it! It’s written to well isn’t it.

    • Laura Dove
      May 4, 2018 / 9:13 pm

      Yes really well written! Just let me thinking WHAT NOW?!! xx

  14. May 5, 2018 / 7:44 am

    I can’t hack emotional
    Books anymore . Such a wimp and a crier 🙂

    • Laura Dove
      May 9, 2018 / 10:47 pm

      HAHH Kira me too! xx

  15. May 5, 2018 / 10:16 pm

    Oh wow this book sounds really interesting and after reading your review I am genuinely intrigued. I think blended families and teenagers are a difficult line to walk

    Laura x

    • Laura Dove
      May 9, 2018 / 10:44 pm

      Definitely Laura and Francesca writes SO well! xx

  16. May 6, 2018 / 11:25 am

    Sounds like an interesting concept for a book. Gald you enjoyed it!

    • Laura Dove
      May 9, 2018 / 10:43 pm

      Thanks Rachel! xx

  17. May 6, 2018 / 11:38 am

    This sounds like an interesting read. As a parent of a daughter who had to accept a step-parent, its a very emotional time so sounds like she has hit the nail on the head

    • Laura Dove
      May 9, 2018 / 10:42 pm

      It’s great to see blended families being written about too isn’t it! xx

  18. May 6, 2018 / 5:17 pm

    It’s leaving you making up the story and what happened next!

    • Laura Dove
      May 9, 2018 / 10:41 pm

      Yes it was both frustrating and kind of nice to imagine how it ended! xx

  19. May 6, 2018 / 7:46 pm

    This sounds very interesting, something I probably wouldn’t pick up due to the title yet the plot sounds intriguing. I love reading different genres and also looking for something that differs from the normal conventions of writing

    • Laura Dove
      May 9, 2018 / 10:41 pm

      Yes I think that’s exactly what it offers, its so well written! xx

  20. May 7, 2018 / 10:02 am

    Sounds like an interesting book. Not sure about the non-ending though. I know what you mean about choosing your own, but it’s interesting to get the author’s conclusion too.

    • Laura Dove
      May 9, 2018 / 10:36 pm

      I agree Leta, it can leave you feeling frustrated! xx

  21. May 7, 2018 / 12:29 pm

    I love a happy ending, but there is also a lot to be said for realism, and moving away from the fairy tale view of life too. It’s comforting, in a way, to find that other people don’t always find life easy either!

    • Laura Dove
      May 10, 2018 / 8:21 pm

      Yes I agree, it was a really interesting book! xx

  22. May 8, 2018 / 6:00 am

    I like a book with a different storyline. It would be ideal for my holidays x

    • Laura Dove
      May 9, 2018 / 10:27 pm

      Its definitely worth a read Cathy! xx

  23. May 8, 2018 / 6:45 am

    Oh this looks like a really good read. The fact you don’t think it’s one to read again doesn’t put me off because I’m like that with most books x

    • Laura Dove
      May 9, 2018 / 10:26 pm

      Yes me too, there’s very few books I will read over and over! xx

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