Whenever a book, or film, or song, becomes really popular there tend to be a fair few imitators. After Star Wars there were a lot of science fiction movies and tv series – like Red Dwarf, Krull or Battlestar Galactica – and the world of women’s erotica went wild after Fifty Shades of Grey was published. One of the more recent trend-setters in the book world must surely be Eleanor Oliphant, even just based on the sheer quantity we are still selling over eighteen months after it first came out, and the quirky, spiky heroine who needs to learn how to be loved is now featuring in more and more novels. The latest one that I’ve been reading about is Susan Green, heroine of Cactus by Sarah Haywood.
Susan (never ‘Suze’ despite what her brother thinks) works in London, trying to convince her workmates to be more efficient, and, at 45, is happy with her life. She has a small flat, perfect for her needs, and a mutually gratifying relationship with a sensible, cultured gentleman which they have agreed will be going nowhere. Again, perfect for her needs. Everything is just as it should be until the sudden death of her mother and the realisation that she is about to become a mother herself. Susan disposes of the baby’s father – their arrangement was for an uncomplicated relationship and she is perfectly capable of raising a child on her own – but her plans to use her share of her inheritance to help support the child go awry when she discovers that her mother has left the family home to her feckless and jobless brother Edward. Armed with her law degree and a sense of righteousness she sets about putting things right but discovers that life isn’t always logical, fair or controllable.
I liked Susan – even though she is prickly and opinionated you grow to understand the reasons behind her quirks – and her family. She may not feel as if she enjoys spending time with Edward or her rather flighty Aunt Sylvia but I did (although I probably share her lack of patience with her twin cousins who were shallow and a bit odd). As a more mature woman I admired Susan’s no-nonsense approach to life and her uncompromising belief that she is the equal of any man but also the way she adapts to the changes in her life. She accepts the friendship of her neighbour, Kate, and is able to rethink her attitude to both her impending motherhood and the father’s role in her child’s life. Her brother’s friend Rob, however, will have to work hard to prove to her that he is not part of Edward’s plan (as Susan sees it) to defraud her of her share of the family home.
If you enjoyed Eleanor Oliphant, Graeme Simsion’s Rosie Project or Harold Fry then give this a try. Yes, it is riding on the coat-tails of these books but is also completely itself. Susan Green wouldn’t have it any other way.