Review: Welcome to Rosie Hopkins’ Sweet Shop of Dreams

Were you a sherbet lemon or chocolate lime fan? Penny chews or hard boiled sweeties (you do get more for your money that way)? The jangle of your pocket money . . . the rustle of the pink and green striped paper bag . . .

Rosie Hopkins thinks leaving her busy London life, and her boyfriend Gerard, to sort out her elderly Aunt Lilian’s sweetshop in a small country village is going to be dull. Boy, is she wrong.

Lilian Hopkins has spent her life running Lipton’s sweetshop, through wartime and family feuds. As she struggles with the idea that it might finally be time to settle up, she also wrestles with the secret history hidden behind the jars of beautifully coloured sweets…

I met Jenny Colgan when I went to the showing of Dr Who and the Daleks several months ago. She was there because she now writes Dr Who novels, but most of her work is Romantic Fiction. We shelve this in the Fiction section of the library, not the Romance section. Which I think is a good thing?

Anyway! I really, really enjoyed this book.

The characters were interesting and lovable, if not wholly realistic and it was certainly entertaining. Her representation of coming to the countryside from the city was daft but I’ve had many moments them that myself when returning home. And the plot moved comfortably and easily forward, without hefting any depth or weight of being. It was, in short, comfortingly entertaining.

And then.

Suddenly.

It was as though somebody else had taken over writing the book. A ‘love interest’ is revealed as gay – there were no clues to this , just a sudden realisation on Rosie’s part. And everyone – including the ex-boyfriend – is suddenly paired off by the end, thereby losing any connection with reality it had previously.

At least the sex scene was… oh crap… where did that come from? (And among the better scenes of that nature that I’ve read.)

The one redeeming feature of this last section was that the story of Lilian Hopkins – told in flashbacks – continued as it had started. A hope-filled but inevitably sad tale of love, loss and aging. There were no tears, but a part of my heart ached for her.

I have yet to try out the recipes. Apparently sugar is my enemy. But on a treat day, I’ll give one or two a shot. 🙂

Review: Dr Who 50th Anniversary Talk & Film, Sci-Fi London Event

Thanks to www.teenlibrarian.com I discovered, very last minute, that last week was the Science-Fiction and Fantastical Film Festival (Sci-Fi London for short). I managed to get free tickets (wasn’t that difficult really) to the Dr Who 50th Anniversary Talk and Film at Stratford Picturehouse.

The topic of discussion: Dr Who books and comic books.

The attendees: Paul Cornell, J.T. Colgan, Terence Dicks, Tommy Donbavand, Scott Gray, Andrew Cartmel, Mark Buckingham and Adrian Salmon.

The film: Dr Who and The Daleks (Peter Cushing edition)

The talk was particularly interesting from the point of view of a developing writer (and someone who is trying to develop other young writers). There was a lot of chat about how they each got into writing Dr Who (fan-fiction, friendship, etc) but also what it’s like to write about characters which are not your own, and in some cases, which you know nothing about it. I wish I’d been together enough to take notes!

During the audience questions, there was an interesting one about whether Jenny Colgan had any difficulties because she’s a woman writing Dr Who. Is Dr Who sexist? The answer was no, but it produced a lovely anecdote from Ms. Colgan. The bare bones being that when she was 10, she had a Princess Diana haircut and won a competition to meet Dr Who (Peter Davison by the time she came to collect), but he just assumed she was a boy, because girls were not interested in Dr Who then (apparently – my mother would say differently). Years later, she head David Tennant telling a story about how he’d entered the same competition and didn’t win. Cue laughter. She was delightful!

I got everyones autograph (including a spare from Jenny and Terence for Andrew) and then the film…

Recently, having grown disillusioned with the new series for various personal reasons, I started watching the original Dr Who’s from the beginning. An Unearthly Child blew me away! It was fantastic. The script, the characters, all brilliant. William Hartnell playing a Doctor who we’re not sure we can trust – grumpy, selfish, unnerving. He lacks the quirks and manical speed of the new Doctors, which was getting a bit old.

I watched William Hartnell’s The Daleks, and felt the continued exurbent love of the first one. Peter Cushings Doctor, hoever, was doddering and a bit useless. He had the lovability of a grandpa, which I guess he was, but none had none of the mystery of the Doctor. I did however, think that the re-imagination of Ian was good, but the dynamics of the series were much more interesting.

For some reason, I was surprised that it was in colour. I’m told that the entire advertising campaign was based on “Daleks IN TECHNICOLOUR!” It’s funny how scenery for ‘outside’ can look so dated, when the city is relatively LESS dated.

In the end, I still loved it, but I preferred the series characters and their relationships.

My one tip is – if you’re ever going to Stratford East – get the train! ‘Cause finding someone to park is harder than defeating any Dalek incarnation!

Apologies for the lack of structure to this post! My brain is dead!