Carrie Fletcher's debut novel is a heartwarming and magical affair, bringing a smile to the face even when it veers into the cheesy and cliche.
Carrie Hope Fletcher, known by most as the YouTube’s ‘honorary big sister’ to young ‘uns all over the world, has done something rather spectacular with her debut novel On The Other Side. Les Misérables‘ Eponine has produced an original concept with buckets of charm, plenty of warmth, and gooey emotional stuff that brings a smile to the face rather effortlessly.
The novel opens with its protagonist, Evie Snow, waking up in the elevator to her old apartment building. She soon discovers that her image seems to be that of her 27 year old self, rather than the 82 year old she remembered being. It is soon revealed that she’s in the waiting room to the afterlife – but when she goes to try and open the door of her flat (aka her own personal heaven), she finds that the key will not turn for her heart is too heavy. The journey that follows is that of Evie lightening her soul, by revealing the 3 secrets that she had kept from her family all her life.
The book then cuts back to Evie’s life at 27; detailing her year as an artist at a local newspaper, and her romance with violinist Vincent Winters. This is the main romantic element of the novel, and though at times it can veer into the cliché, it is wonderfully told. Evie leaves sweets for Vincent in his violin case at the train station where he busks, until he takes notice and begins a friendship – which soon blossoms into romance. I have to say, there were many points where I just couldn’t stop grinning because of how sweet and natural the romance felt. It had an innocence about it that was so heartwarming; even though it followed a very traditional pattern of star-crossed tragic lovers, I found that I didn’t seem to mind. The fact that the physical descriptions of Evie and Vincent match those of Carrie and her boyfriend Pete Bucknall made it just that tad more cute. However, once we learn their story, the narrative jumps back and forth between 27 year old Evie’s tale and 82 year old Evie’s trips from the afterlife.
I think the familial focus and the relationship of the Summers children are the strongest parts of the novel. It’s something a little bit different but the things it says about parent-child relationships are rather moving and definitely akin to real life. As well as this, it is these parts of the novel that stand out as being the important ones in terms of characterisation, and certainly the development of Evie’s character. It’s as if you see glimpses of the person she was in the time the book doesn’t detail, and the sacrifices she made to become that person. It’s also an important lesson, teaching that even if you don’t get the perfect life you can still have ine that is fulfilling and produces good fruits.
The other element that strengthened the novel was the surreal elements. The fantastical undertones really did make it more magical (literally and emotionally), but also gave the novel an originality that it otherwise may have lacked. It gave something fresh and creative and something inherently new to the romance genre, and Fletcher should be congratulated on her ability to weave it into the narrative in such a charming way.
Though not necessarily the most refined writing style, Carrie Hope Fletcher’s first novel is definitely worth reading, especially if you’re a big softie at heart. It’s wonderfully uplifting, and I think that it would make an absolute wonderful film to boot. She has shown that she is capable of thinking up exciting concepts, and she has a thorough understanding of the themes she wishes to explore. Essentially, this book is a sure sign of the author’s potential, and I look forward to reading what she delivers to the world next.
On the Other Side by Carrie Fletcher is out now and is published by the Little Brown Book Group