Ally’s relationship is over, and she’s taking the cat...
Romantic novels (or RomComs) are not the typical genre of book I’ll head towards in a bookshop; however within reading the first few pages, I realised that Laura had written a rather special novel which kept me engaged throughout the course of the story.
The Split is a story of love but not your typical romance, it is about the strongest love of all…friendship. It doesn’t really matter what life throws at you if you have a strong support network of friends and this novel highlighted this.
Ally lives with her girlfriend on a houseboat in London; that is until one morning when she is brutally dumped by Emily. She announces she is going to spend the night at her “friends” house and leaves Ally to wallow in self-pity, despair and confusion. Now homeless, jobless, friendless and unable to face Emily’s return the next morning, Ally bundles up her belongings and decides to head home to Yorkshire to stay with her dad. She’s not going home alone though; she bundles Emily’s cat Malcolm into his carrier and heads off to the train station with suitcase and cat in tow.
It must be strange to head back to your childhood home and to try to come to terms with your life apparently going backwards, but for Ally, comfort was there in the arms of her father and also her childhood friend Jeremy. He had returned home to live with his mother due to his life unravelling around him and he too was broken-hearted and wanting to live under a duvet for the foreseeable future. You would think at this point that this might be a depressing book but it’s not. It is a vibrant book full of warmth and humour as two misfits try to make some order of their life, dragging themselves out of the hollow of self-pity, torturing themselves by scouring Instagram pages of their ex’s and opening their hearts over cake and bottles of wine in the process.
Neither party really knows what they want to do with their lives, but they know they need something to focus on. Jeremy thinks he sees his ex in town one day, and comes up with the notion that him and Ally should run the Sheffield half-marathon to show their ex’s that they can achieve something worthwhile in their lives. The only problem is, neither Jeremy or Ally are runners, and the race is in eight weeks! Now I am not one of God’s little athletes, so reading about Ally slogging her guts out around Sheffield really resonated with me. Her description of school PE lessons didn’t run amiss either…it was as if someone was writing about my foiled attempts to get out of gym class. I could relate to those descriptions of the body being on fire, not being able to breath and desperately wanting to be sick in the gutter; so I cheered them on with their ludicrous ambition whilst lying on the sofa, tea in one hand, biscuit in the other.
Ally convinces herself that her athleticism and commitment to something will bring Emily running back to her…and if that doesn’t, there’s always Malcolm. Surely Emily will come up to Sheffield to rescue her beloved cat, right?! In a series of emails, it becomes clear that Emily wants her cat, but she’s not leaving London or new beau Sara (without an H.) Ally stole the cat, Ally can damn well bring the cat back; plus there are loads of friends in London missing Ally – surely she wants to see them again. Would that be the close friends who managed a couple of WA messages and then quickly gave up bothering to see how Ally was coping? The friends that were really Emily’s friends who just accepted Ally because she was “always there.” It was interesting reading the dynamics of what you perceive to be a friendship and what a friendship really entails. The people who had been closest in Ally’s life disappear, whereas someone she had been at school with, someone she had not connected with for years, ended up being the support mechanism she really needed.
As Ally commits further to the half-marathon, she decides to buy some proper running clothes, and it’s here that she meets Jo, a post-grad student who has formed a running group. She tells Ally and Jeremy to join them, and so Ally forms a new plan of attack to win Emily back. If Malcolm has failed to tug on Emily’s heartstrings, how about telling her all about the new woman in her life…Jo?
This was such a poignant, but light-hearted debut novel from Laura Kay and a real break from the books I normally read. Laura has created some endearing characters and I heartily recommend that you share the laughs and tears with Ally and her companions when the book is published in March 2020.
The Split by Laura Kay is published by Quercus Books in March 2021. Follow @lauraelizakay @QuercusBooks for further details and updates to publication.