Wednesday 17 March 2021

On Hampstead Heath - Marika Cobbold

Thorn Marsh was raised in a house of whispers, of meaningful glances and half-finished sentences. Now she's a journalist with a passion for truth, more devoted to her work at the London Journal than she ever was to her ex-husband.

When the newspaper is bought by media giant The Goring Group, who value sales figures over fact-checking, Thorn openly questions their methods, and promptly finds herself moved from the news desk to the midweek supplement, reporting heart-warming stories for their new segment, The Bright Side, a job to which she is spectacularly unsuited.

On a final warning and with no heart-warming news in sight, a desperate Thorn fabricates a good-news story of her own. The story, centred on an angelic apparition on Hampstead Heath, goes viral. Caught between her principles and her ambitions, Thorn goes in search of the truth behind her creation, only to find the answers locked away in the unconscious mind of a stranger.

Marika Cobbold returns with her eighth novel, On Hampstead Heath. Sharp, poignant, and infused with dark humour, On Hampstead Heath is an homage to storytelling and to truth; to the tales we tell ourselves, and the stories that save us.

What did I think?

On Hampstead Heath may be the first book I have read by Marika Cobbold but it definitely won't be the last.  I absolutely love her dark humour and had many unexpected laugh out loud moments in this thought-provoking, witty and hugely entertaining book.

Thorn is a journalist with a conscience, most of the time.  There are many things you shouldn't do when drunk - writing a story and submitting it to the news desk is definitely one of them, as Thorn discovers when she wakes up with a hangover and a story that's gone viral.  As events spiral out of control, it's both poignant and hilarious as Thorn struggles with the weight of keeping her secret.

In this humourous and entertaining novel, Marika Cobbold gives us a glimpse into the cutthroat world of journalism through the eyes of her fabulous main character of Thorn.  I really felt for Thorn as nothing seems to go right in her personal or work life but maybe the angel of Hampstead Heath is about to turn that around.  As the secrets and lies begin to snowball into a massive web of deceit, Thorn is trapped between living a lie or coming clean and facing the consequences.  Is she really a journalist with a conscience?

This is definitely a book I will read again and at only 238 pages long it's a quite a quick read.  I think there is so much to be gained from this small but mighty novel; it's not only an entertaining story but for me, it's a stark reminder of the importance of creating a good work/life balance.  Many of us put our work before our home life, but Thorn has given the best years of her life to her job and when she finally gets a glimpse of what a happy and fulfilling life could be like her job still manages to get in the way.

An absolute little gem of a book, On Hampstead Heath is entertaining, thought-provoking and extremely witty.  Marika Cobbold writes with incredible raw honestly and has such hilarious observations of the mundane that I definitely want to read more of her books.  I absolutely unreservedly recommend this magnificent book.

I received an ARC to read and review; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

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