One Night at the Jacaranda - Carol Cooper (2013)

Take a scenario: Speed dating. Three minutes to make an impression or make up your mind. Add a diverse selection of Londoners looking for a partner and a little bit of fun and maybe even more than that. Devise some fantastic background stories about each character and in this novel, about a group of 30-somethings whose lives criss-cross one night, the result is an intelligent debut full of wonderful characters. Carol Cooper, a doctor and medical writer, writes fantastic lines and witty anecdotes for her characters and splashes each situation with liberal dashes of empathy, making her characters extremely readable and endearingly engaging. I loved the way she used her medical knowledge to great effect for two of her characters, Geoff, an overworked general practitioner and Sanjay, a young man diagnosed with testicular cancer and facing an uncertain future. Her love of animals also shone through with her understanding of what a marvellous comfort a pet can bring to its owner in times of trouble and stress. At times this novel was laugh-out-loud funny, at times very sad, but always the writing was up-beat and showed integrity. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and really hope for a sequel in the future. For although I thought the ending was excellent, I do believe there's more than enough mileage in these characters for a second book. (JH)

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