Book review: The Only Way is Up by Carole Matthews

Never afraid to tackle thorny social issues, chick-lit queen Carole Matthews brings us the torrid tale of a couple whose home is repossessed.

Thursday, 17th March 2011, 6:00 am

And in her enviably easy and wordly wise way, she manages to turn a modern morality story into a tears-and-laughter adventure.

Lily and Laurence Lamont-Jones have it all...big house, lavish holidays and private schools for their two children.

In fact, they have just run up a bill for £20,000 on a holiday extravaganza with their equally rich friends in a luxury villa in Tuscany.

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Laurence is a fund manager in the City and Lily has become an expert at spending his cash. But Laurence has a terrible secret that he just can’t reveal to Lily – he lost his job three months ago after his wheeler dealing went badly wrong and now he hasn’t a penny to his name.

So when they return from foreign climes to find their Buckinghamshire home repossessed and all their goods taken by the bailiffs, it’s a disaster that is off the scale.

‘This doesn’t happen to people like us,’ says an appalled Lily - but it does and it has.

There’s no-one to turn to. Their friends are not REAL friends and would Lily and Laurence really want them to know that their life has just disappeared down a particularly smelly plughole?

Officially homeless, they are allocated a prefabricated terraced home, ironically named Shangri-La, in an area known for knifings, arson and burglary.

The house is filthy, has swirly wallpaper, mice droppings, fleas, an old car in the garden and two mattresses in lieu of a patio.

However, it does have one very big asset, next door neighbour Tracey Smith, a woman with a heart of gold, two children called Charlize and Keanu and lashings of good advice – ‘Bit of Cif and some elbow grease and you’ll have it fixed up in no time at all’.

As Lily, Laurence and their children get to grips with chips, beans and eggs and discover the pros and cons of a pawnbroker, life will never be the same again for any of them.

Matthews handles her story with infectious humour, sparkling dialogue and the lightest of touches but never forgets the harsh realities and serious issues at its heart.

Love and laughter in a hugely entertaining riches-to-rags rollercoaster.

(Headline Review, paperback, £6.99)