#BookReview: All The Good Things by Clare Fisher @Vikingbooksuk

Twenty-one year old Beth is in prison. The thing she did is so bad she doesn’t deserve to ever feel good again.

But her counsellor, Erika, won’t give up on her. She asks Beth to make a list of all the good things in her life. So Beth starts to write down her story, from sharing silences with Foster Dad No. 1, to flirting in the Odeon on Orange Wednesdays, to the very first time she sniffed her baby’s head.

But at the end of her story, Beth must confront the bad thing.

What is the truth hiding behind her crime? And does anyone-even a 100% bad person-deserve a chance to be good? 

Published 1st June 2017 by Viking, Penhuin (UK) 

All The Good Things dropped through my letterbox completely unexpectedly. I had seen it about, but didn’t know a lot about it. Sometimes though, those little unexpected surprise books turn out to be absolutely gems, and all the more special because you just didn’t know it was coming. That’s definitely the case with All The Good Things by Clare Fisher.

I’m not going to lie, this is a pretty gritty and harrowing read. It starts with Beth in prison, although the reader has no idea why, and a suggestion from her Councillor to write down all the good things from her life. It’s not as straight forward as it sounds, as Beth has had a traumatic and chaotic upbringing – suffering neglect as a young child and then passed from one foster home to another. But she goes along with the idea. Each chapter then concentrates on the story of a good thing.

I can’t express how absolutely touching and sincere this story is. Beth got under my skin, I shed tears for her, I got mad at her, I broke my heart for her lost potential. It’s such an important story which examines mental health and children in care and the atrocious lack of support afforded them. Beth’s written herself off long before she gets to prison, but then why wouldn’t she have when everyone else already has anyway?

All The Good Things also forces the reader to consider some uncomfortable ideas about forgiveness and understanding, about good and bad. Beth’s crime when it’s revealed is shocking – yet there’s so many others who are responsible in some small way for the position she finds herself in, it is impossible not to feel empathy and sadness for what almost seems inevitable. But if just one thing had been different? If one person had reached out at the right moment? There’s a lot of what if’s for this young, tragic girl, yet there’s also some hope. I’m not going to say anymore, because that would give things away but I certainly felt by the end that Beth could see how she might be able to have a future.

Clare Fisher writes beautifully and I was completely immersed in this book. It’s important – Mental ill health and the lack of support and resources is a real and relevant concern, as is the increasing significance of childhood poverty and life chances. I challenge anyone not to be left emotionally drained, heart-broken and angry at a system that fails some of its most vulnerable after reading All The Good Things. But it’s also engaging, Beth is a character you’ll care about, find humour with and hope things can get better for her. One of the best books I’ve read this year, I’ll be eagerly watching out for more by Clare Fisher in the future.

( I read an advanced proof courtesy of the publisher)

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