Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
“That’s the Narwhals for you. Why do something simple and low key when there’s a perfectly good, mad, and over-elaborate alternative?”
Thoroughly entertaining and both heart-warming and heart-wrenching from start to finish! This book was a completely new experience for me, and is guaranteed to make you laugh just as much as it’ll bring a tear to your eye. Another extremely talented new author to keep your eye on! I’m very happy to be sharing my review of Mrs Narwhal’s Diary on the blog tour – make sure you take a look at the reviews from all these other brilliant book bloggers!
Mrs Narwhal is overwhelmed. Her husband, Hugh, is unkind and unhappy – working every hour at a job he hates to save the ancestral home he never wanted. Then there’s Hugh’s sister, Rose, who’s spurned her one true love, and ricochets from drama to drama; not to mention two small boys to bring up safely in a house that could crumble around their ears at any moment…
When Hugh’s pride receives a fatal blow, and he walks out, Mrs Narwhal is plunged into a crisis of both heart and home. With help from Rose she sets out to save the house her husband couldn’t. But now that Hugh’s gone, the question must be faced: does Mrs Narwhal really want him back?
What I certainly didn’t expect after reading this book’s synopsis was just how perfectly witty this author is! The humour straight from the first few pages was such a pleasant surprise, and after reading another of this publisher’s books, The Dig Street Festival, I could really see that theme of clever humour continue. (You’ve grabbed some brilliant ones here, Louise!) The book begins by gently easing us into the Narwhal family lifestyle, and we’re introduced to a handful of memorable characters. We hear the story from the perspective of Mrs Narwhal’s diary (of course) and beneath all that humour, I began to sense that something wasn’t quite right with her husband, Hugh. To Mrs Narwhal, he doesn’t seem himself, and not the kind of person he once was. Could it purely be down to getting older and grumpier? Or would this develop into something that couldn’t be put right? I loved how much we can relate to everything that happened at the start, making us feel for Mrs Narwhal and what was potentially coming her way. I knew my heart would break a little the more I read!
The relationship between Mrs Narwhal and her husband was written in such a powerful way, and it was upsetting learning any intimacy in their relationship only showed its face after an alcoholic drink or two. Within the first few chapters, I felt like we could get a good idea of exactly who Mrs Narwhal is, see her raw, loveable personality, and also feel every single emotion she feels. The author has cleverly written her story in such an addictive way and it felt like I’d known this character personally for years! The development of this character was already shining through, and it was clear her journey was going to have an impact on me. The author’s tone of voice is great, something that has that rare, unique quality that makes you want to read more and more. The opening to the book sets the scene very well, and as we start to get subtle hints about a change in Hugh, I became more and more curious about how this would affect Mrs Narwhal. A strong start, with plenty to explore in the lives of these characters!
‘”You can’t change anyone else,” my mother always said, inadvertently providing me with the best possible advice for a lifetime with Hugh, “only yourself.”‘
An argument between Mrs Narwhal and Hugh made the reader really understand just how flawed their relationship had become over time, and the author has written this in a way that makes you feel every word. It’s scary and quite saddening to experience, and is unfortunately what many couples resort to after years of marriage. Reading this scene in particular made me feel like these two were better off apart. However, you can certainly see just how much love Mrs Narwhal has for her husband which just makes the whole thing even more upsetting! Even the apology was half-arsed from her husband, leaving uncertainty and confusion on Mrs Narwhal’s part. The story at this point doesn’t even feel like a work of fiction – I was constantly impressed by the author’s choice of vocabulary and exploration of emotion that just made each scene, each event just as real as the previous. I kept getting the feeling that something bad was going to happen, and wondered if Mrs Narwhal would be strong enough to get through it all!
We continue to follow Mrs Narwhal’s life, from those mundane daily tasks (with no help from Hugh) to helping out family members in crisis. The story really does take the perfect shape of a diary and I found it so clever how the author manages to keep this up flawlessly! Mrs Narwhal is always the first to help anyone else in need as well as being the caring mother to her boys, and seems to put herself second in any situation. It’s clear this woman needs time for herself, and I always had the intense feeling of wanting to jump into the book and give her a hug! Aside from this character’s journey, the author also brings another character into the mix, Rose, which gave the story more depth in my eyes and also allows us to see first hand just how much of an impact Mrs Narwhal has on other people. I really enjoyed the story up to this point, and I was looking forward to reading more about the lives of these characters. Just what was in store for them, however, was something I just couldn’t predict! A great start.
Numerous events, seeing friends/family and helping others seemed to be a big part of the plot here, but even though the story didn’t feel overly complex or deeply developed here, I kind of felt this made it a more unique experience to enjoy. I did feel the book was much more character driven, helping readers thoroughly understand everything there was to know about Mrs Narwhal and her life. The only minor negative I found was that I felt I was constantly waiting for something more to happen with the story, something which didn’t come, but if I’d known the kind of book this was before I’d started reading, then perhaps I wouldn’t have felt this way! I’m all for reading books that are different, and so are many others, so I already know many readers will love this one. I did like how all the chapters were completely different though; we meet new characters who are always well introduced to the reader and experience different events that were always thoroughly entertaining without a doubt!
I really liked hearing more about Rose’s character and her life, and I felt just as grateful as Mrs Narwhal when she offers her help in transforming the Tree House. Hugh’s opinions on the matter don’t match up to his wife’s, but the job was getting done anyway (plus he’d started helping out around the house more to Mrs Narwhal’s delight). The author really digs into every little detail about everything that goes on and every character, bringing the reader directly into a scene as though they’re an extra character. At times, it felt as if Mrs Narwhal and her husband were finally making some progress with fixing their relationship, but at other times, I wasn’t so sure. Maybe it was one step forward, two steps back, but the future for them seemed very unclear at this point. The author has portrayed their bumps along the way very well, and I was really keen to see just how things changed over the course of the book. A great first half to the book, and I was curious to see what came next!
“And when he came over to squeeze my arm, and look at me with great kindness and concern, I found – to my equal astonishment and horror – that I was bursting into tears.”
The news of Hugh leaving shouldn’t have been a shock after it’s mentioned in the synopsis, but I still felt heartbreak for Mrs Narwhal! She keeps herself busy and assures those close to her she doesn’t need help or company, but how much truth was in these words? And how would she really cope without her husband at her side, even though he was a bit of a pain in the arse at times? I felt like this book could be a strange rulebook for marriage in a humourous way, helping to understand those flaws and where problems could potentially stem from, not to mention the 101 ways your husband can annoy you over time. Mrs Narwhal soon sets out to save the house her husband had been so reluctant to fix, and her effort in keeping things in check was just award-worthy! I loved her character even more here, and I wanted more than anything for her to get over her husband’s departure, or for them both to get to a point where they’re ready to give their relationship a second chance. But, after everything that’s happened, does Mrs Narwhal feel the need to have him back in her life?
Learning more about those exciting plans for the Tree House gave me hope, and if things went to plan, lives could be changed and extra money could be made, something that would indeed make so much difference to Mrs Narwhal’s life (and Hugh’s, if he ever came back). Aside from this, love and romance seemed to be a regular slap in the face for Mrs Narwhal since Hugh left, almost like it was taunting her, whether this be Rose and Nick or Juliet and Tony. It was clear jealousy was playing a part in her life now and she was obviously missing Hugh to an extent. Or was it the idea of him? I kind of hoped he’d be able to fix himself and go home! We also hear more about the time where Mrs Narwhal and Hugh met, which was a really nice touch, making us even more desperate for the pair to make amends. She mulls over life, weighing up the pros and cons of having Hugh back in her life and questions exactly how she feels for him now. Who knows what we can expect next!
Mrs Narwhal plays hero again as Rose suffers a blow, finding out some pretty significant information about Nick and a previous partner. She also has to put on a brave face as she arranges for her children to spend the weekend with Hugh. Right until the end, she goes through so much, but still finds the time to help others. She really is super woman! When the time comes to play her part in the grand opening of the Tree House, I felt this was the perfect project to get her teeth into and to keep her mind away from Hugh and all those family problems. I enjoyed this part of the book as we can really begin to see some growth from Mrs Narwhal – everything she goes through is clearly making her stronger, even that impulsive haircut was a positive step to getting herself back in the right frame of mind! I knew she was on the right path, but was still uncertain whether she’d want to jump back in her relationship with Hugh when all was said and done.
The author continues to keep us entertained up to those final scenes, and having a day out away from the project on Narwhal Hall and persistent thoughts of Hugh really seemed to help, especially for Mrs Narwhal. I loved how the author had managed to create such a unique atmosphere, keeping things light but also making readers know that those problems weren’t going to fix themselves. The humour in this particular part of the story was great, especially as they visit Grove Court, a National Heritage property which doesn’t quite go to plan. Researching how their own project could potentially run still gave the group some interesting ideas to work with though! We also hear about how much effort and dedication Hugh is putting into changing himself, but did these changes mean he wouldn’t be coming home? My emotions were a little all over the place by this point; I wanted more than anything for a happy ending, but I wasn’t 100% sure it would be the outcome we’d hoped for.
“So this writing now, this is a last letter to last year’s self, a hand reaching down to her. Up you come now, I say. Brush yourself off. There’s so much I want to tell you.”
It was really refreshing seeing the progress the whole project was making, and just how much Rose was putting her heart and soul into everything to make it work. Her strength had certainly grown and she had a great mind – she was certainly one of my favourite characters throughout the whole book! Mrs Narwhal gets to participate by doing the things she loves to do, and even though Hugh isn’t there with her, I felt that they were both finally in a place where they were happier than before. The more I thought about it, the more I thought their relationship would get better by not living together – some things simply aren’t meant to be. As the book came to a close, I felt my spirits begin to lift, even though I expected an ending filled with loss and helplessness. However, a phone call from Hugh could potentially change everything – but is it what Mrs Narwhal wants? The author flips Mrs Narwhal’s life around in so many ways, something which would be difficult for her to process.
I guarantee the ending of this book will make you sob but also fill you with a mix of hope and joy – such a strange experience of emotions that just worked! I feel like the book teaches so much and puts a lot into perspective, making you realise what you can tolerate, what you can’t, and what needs to be done to secure happiness. I loved how loose ends were tied and we see the success of Narwhal Hall after all the hard work had paid off. And, most importantly, just how Mrs Narwhal is living her life after learning so many lessons and experiencing so much. I’m certain this book will be loved by so many and is completely unique – a really brilliant effort from the author. I can’t wait to see just what she achieves next!
This is such a beautiful book written from the perspective of a woman with the world on her shoulders, but a woman who learns so much about life in the process. The author uses a fantastic narrative to tell Mrs Narwhal’s story and the detail in everything she does kept me hooked. The complete experience is unlike anything I’ve read; completely refreshing and left me wanting more of it! A brilliant book through and through, such a great achievement for this author!
A huge thanks to the author, S. J. Norbury, and Emma at Damp Pebbles for my copy of the book and place on the blog tour! You can purchase your own copy of Mrs Narwhal’s Diary on Amazon, available on Kindle and in paperback.