On The Other Side – Carrie Hope Fletcher

“Your soul is too heavy to pass through the door,
leave the weight of the world in the world from before.
Once it is lighter your key shall then turn,
and you will be able to have what you yearn.”

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Blurb: “Evie Snow is eighty-two when she quietly passes away in her sleep, surrounded by her children and grandchildren. It’s the way most people wish to leave the world but when Evie reaches the door of her own private heaven, she finds that she’s become her twenty-seven-year old self and the door won’t open. Evie’s soul must be light enough to pass through so she needs to get rid of whatever is making her soul heavy. For Evie, this means unburdening herself of the three secrets that have weighed her down for over fifty years, so she must find a way to reveal them before it’s too late.”

On The Other Side is the first fiction novel from Carrie Hope Fletcher and earned her the number one spot on the Sunday Times’ Fiction Hardback Bestseller list.

The story follows Evie who finds herself in the body of her twenty-seven year old self in the apartment building she lived in during her time. She goes to her old apartment door and finds that she can’t open the door. With the help of her deceased building doorman Dr Lieffe, she learns that if you lived a good life, when you die to go to your favourite place – your own personal heaven- which to Evie is this building. Her soul is weighed down by three secrets she’s accumulated over her life and needs to unburden herself in order to fully pass on.

Carrie was in an interesting position with this book as no one knows what happens after you die, therefore no reader can argue how “realistic” the interpretation of the afterlife is. Which leaves a lot to play around with.

I really liked the characters. Each and every single one of them that I crossed paths with over the course of this book stayed with me until the last page. They were all so well written and felt like real people you might come across in life if you’re lucky enough. There’s some diversity in terms of sexuality (during a Q&A Carrie mentioned that society is so diverse and there’s nothing wrong with introducing and normalising these differences through her work) but I’m becoming exasperated at bisexual representation in literature. This is no entire fault of Carrie because I’ve reached a point where I’ll take what I can get, but the bisexual characters in literature always seem to be men. I’m yet to find an abundance of bisexual female characters scattered across the pages of books.

I liked the overall plot though some parts were questionable and after a few times of re-reading I’m still not fully sure what and how things happened in certain places.

My main issue with this book was the plot order. Evie’s unfinished business requires her to go back to three different people from her life and tell them a secret and when she goes back into the living world to do this she will say “I need to go and see…” then it was another 30% of the ebook before you actually got to see what took place with that person. This is because there’s a lot of flitting from past to present in order to get a better understanding of who Evie was to flesh her out and the very obvious and fundamental love story. I found all of it really good in terms of storytelling and writing but it just all felt out of order; like it had been thrown together in the early stages and then not fiddled around with. There was no clear indication of whether you were in the past or present which became confusing. (I found out through a Q&A that the chapters with the branch symbol referred to the past and chapters with the door symbol referred to the present but it’s no good learning that AFTER finishing the book when it’s not clear while reading) I wanted to take the book apart and reorder it to see if it would have worked better the way I pictured it in my mind.

If it wasn’t for the wonderful characters and engaging plot points, I would have given up on this book completely. Which is a shame because I expected more from someone as creative as Carrie.

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All I Know Now – Carrie Fletcher Book Signing

Yesterday I went on an adventure to Birmingham for the signing of Carrie Hope Fletcher’s book “All I Know Now” (click here for my review). I had never been to Birmingham before so I was excited at the prospect of getting to explore a new city. Naturally, I fell into several book stores. Some things never change. I also got to share this experience with my wonderful boyfriend.

The queue to get into the Waterstone’s was so long that it literally stretched around the outside of the building… and it was raining… and I didn’t bring an umbrella…
I love book signings simply for that fact that you are surrounded by people, clutching the same book as you, and they love it just as much as you do. It’s an indescribable feeling – I later discovered that 200 people had attended the signing. There were drinks and cupcakes on arrival along with rows and rows of chairs facing a stage on which Carrie would soon make her appearance.

Carrie walked out to cheers with a massive smile on her face, rocking a beautiful dress and her famous blond curls. The man giving the interview asked important questions such as if Carrie had intended for the All I Know Now blog to become a book, to which she replied that that was the dream but it becoming a reality was a “happy accident.” Author Giovanna Fletcher was given a mention when the interviewer asked if the sister-in-law had helped her with the writing process, and naturally, Carrie only had nice things to say. It was lovely seeing a closed up, clearly nervous Carrie become more relaxed, eliciting jokes which had the audience in fits of laughter. She then read a chapter from her book – “The Disgusting Business of Falling in Love.” As I listened, I was reminded of just how incredible human beings actually are.

She even treated the audience to some music. Donning her acoustic guitar, she belted out a cover of Taylor Swift’s We Are Never Ever Ever Getting Back Together and her original song Boys In Books Are Better.

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Then questions were opened up to the audience: aspiring theatre performers asked for audition advice, Once Upon A Time fans asked her about the show and her “ships”, which character she’d love to play on the West End now that her dream of playing older Eponine has been fulfilled (Her answers were Elphaba in Wicked and Wednesday Addams in The Addams Family). But the question that had Carrie flailing in her chair the most was “if you could bring one fictional character to life, who would it be and why?” – She never did give an answer.

So on to the actual signing!
My boyfriend and I joined the queue and while we waited, cupcakes were handed out (life doesn’t get much better than that!) Forty minutes later, we were at the front. Greeted with a smile, we handed our books over and had an opportunity to talk to her. I told her that I benefited most from her chapter about accepting yourself as I am a true criminal of the “you have to say that you’re my friend/boyfriend” statement whenever I’m complimented. I also told her that one of the things that kind of led to my boyfriend and I getting together was the fact that we both watch her videos. This made Carrie really excited and she called us “the hopeful couple.”

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