Monday 11 July 2016

from Pasta to Pigfoot: Second Helpings by Frances Mensah Williams

Pasta fanatic Faye Bonsu loves her job as Junior interior designer at Cayhill’s - one of the top design consultancy firms in the City of London. Her relationship with long term boyfriend Rocky Assante, is deteriorating due to his heavy work load and Faye felt that:

lost in a haze of work, her high-flying investment banker boyfriend was fast becoming a stranger

The story begins with Faye taking a break from her busy work life to go to Hampstead Heath with her best friend Caroline and Caroline’s daughter Coco. Surrounded by ‘yummy mummies…and shiny buggies’ Faye reflects on her life situation as she watches children running around on the Heath and families spread over colourful picnic blankets.

Faye feels her relationship with Rocky is not moving forward. Approaching thirty she is now ready to settle down. The problem is, Rocky gives no indication he feels the same way. His job involves long hours and a lot of travelling leaving Faye to wonder what the future holds.  Despite enjoying her career, which is heading in a very positive direction, Faye has other aspirations and:

continued to harbour her secret dreams of a big family of boisterous, noisy children

Friends and family, realising she is ready to settle down, are urging her to put her needs first and talk to Rocky about how she feels. However, Faye continues to send Rocky mixed messages about her feelings and their relationship causing them to drift further apart. It seems like her resolve to speak to Rocky about her frustrations disappear as soon as she sees him.

“She just stared at him, struck yet again by how utterly beautiful he was”

She is still drawn to him and although he is unreliable she almost melts the minute she sees him, all her frustrations and annoyance pushed aside.

“Rocky’s low drawl sent familiar shivers juddering straight through her body

When they both return to Ghana for the wedding of Rocky’s sister Amma, Faye is wary of spending a whole week in the same house together and her fears are realised as he becomes even more distant.
Although Faye struggles to confront her own relationship issues she is busy helping others with theirs. Best friend Caroline and husband Marcus have their own problems along with Caroline’s dislike for her mother-in-law and Faye steps in to get them to see sense. Faye’s client Harriet Woollaston is in a similar situation with her husband Jamie and Faye helps to bring the two back together.

It is only after her return from Ghana that Faye begins to reflect on her own desires, looking deeply into a past relationship to find clarity.

from Pasta to Pigfoot: Second Helpings is a story about the complexities of relationships. Many will empathise with Faye’s inability to discuss her own feelings, resulting in an unhappy relationship. It is always easier to see the problems of others rather than one’s own.

It is an entertaining novel which reflects modern day living. The juggling of career and family life and trying to achieve a happy balance between the two. The characters are authentic and it is easy to get caught up in the day to day struggles of their personal issues.

It is also a story about love – which is ultimately what drives everyone forward. Love for friends; love for relatives and love on a more personal level. We see the issues that arise between people once the initial excitement has worn off but there is also the delight and hope of new love when Lottie, Faye’s family housekeeper, falls in love with the dashing, aging actor Sam Molloy who has recently moved into the street.

Cultural references to Ghana, the African food and way of life through Fay and Rocky's experiences also give added dimension and interest to the novel 

Second Helpings was a very enjoyable read and Frances Mensah Williams has achieved a good balance between reality and fiction to enable the reader to identify with the characters in a positive way.

We thank Jacaranda Books for the review copy

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