Book Review: The Cactus, by Sarah Haywood

‘I’m doing a charity pub crawl next month, and wondered if you’d sponsor me,’ he said. ‘I can email you the fundraising link direct, seeing as you’re not joining the twenty-first century any time soon.’

‘What charity is it for?’ I asked, throwing down my pen.

‘I haven’t decided yet. I just need to do something meaningful with my life. I might do it for pandas – I love pandas – or I might do it to stop global warming, ‘cos that’s something I really care about at the moment…’

Boy, oh boy, did I enjoy this book.

There, that’s the review. Thank you for stopping by.

Ok, I’ll elaborate.

45 year-old Susan has found herself in an inheritance battle with her brother, Edward, after their mother’s death. She has also just found out that she’s pregnant. Susan would be described as quirky and unconventional, by some, and as rude and condescending by others. She has her walls up and lives according to strict rules that keep her distanced from others. And she would appreciate it if you followed them too, thank you very much.

As we learn more about her parents and childhood we get to understand why this is, but she sure can say the wrong thing in a situation.

If you read and enjoyed ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine,’ you’ll know the kind of character I mean. Her socially-awkward responses made me cringe for her but I never thought of her as mean-spirited, just as someone who was unaware of the impact of her words: she had to learn to look out for herself and she wants the same from others.

In the novel we also meet her family. Her aunt and cousins who are so vividly depicted through wonderful side-eye comments from Susan who can’t, for example, understand why they would want to meet up on a spa-day.

There was so much humour spattered throughout the book that it really felt a joy to read. The initial quote for this blog post was taken from an encounter at Susan’s workplace and I thought it captured the tone of the book, with her refusing to join social media and be part of the office’s social side, throwing her pen down at the annoyance of the interruption from her work, and the silliness of the request. Seeing these encounters through Susan’s straightforward and no-nonsense eyes really added to the humour.

There is a budding romance in the novel that you can see coming from the moment a certain male character is introduced; yes, maybe it was a bit far-fetched. But, even that made me smile. I think with everything that is going on around us, I liked that Susan, in all her scathing bluntness, had her foundations rocked. Stories can be made out of pure pleasure, however unlikely or unrealistic the plotline, they can just be read as a lovely escape for the imagination.

I say this because when I finished the book, as I am sometimes known to do, I had a quick look at a book review site to see what others were saying about it (surely everyone must have loved it as much as I did, right?), and there were lots of bloody awful things being said with the author being tagged in. I’ve been a lurker on Bookish twitter for a while and one of the things that I see crop up time and again from established book bloggers is: if you don’t like the book, you don’t have to review it. Writing books ain’t easy and an author doesn’t need to be brought down by a keyboard warrior. So, I just wanted to say that I loved this book for the time it took me out of my own life and into someone else’s.

The Cactus made me smile, made me wince, and it made me very nearly cry. I loved Susan and I’m praying for a sequel because, Sarah Haywood, you have left me wanting more.

Published by luggageandscribble

Oh hey, just a girl who loves reading.

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