Space Hopper is a treat of a book! A delicious, heart-felt time capsule that will take every reader on their own nostalgic journey. #JumpWithMe
‘A warm, witty, wholehearted glimpse inside a parallel universe. Genuine and touching… a delight.‘
what it says on the cover …
They say those we love never truly leave us, and I’ve found that to be true. But not in the way you might expect. In fact, none of this is what you’d expect. I’ve been visiting my mother who died when I was eight. And I’m talking about flesh and blood, tea-and-biscuits-on-the-table visiting here.
Right now, you probably think I’m going mad. Let me explain…
Although Faye is happy with her life, the loss of her mother as a child weighs on her mind even more now that she is a mother herself. So she is amazed when, in an extraordinary turn of events, she finds herself back in her childhood home in the 1970s. Faced with the chance to finally seek answers to her questions – but away from her own family – how much is she willing to give up for another moment with her mother?
PUBLISHED: February 2021
SHELF: contemporary fiction | fantasy
AUTHOR: Helen Fisher
PUBLISHER: Simon & Schuster
FORMATS: Paperback | Hardback | Kindle
‘What about your past? How often would you travel there given the chance? Often? Never? And when you got there, would you think about staying forever?‘
my review …
First things first – the cover. I’ve no doubt this book will catch the eye of every browsing book worm through its wonderfully zingy appearance. Okay, so the title says one thing, whilst the roller skates say another … but once you’ve settled yourself into the story, the relevance of both will become beautifully clear.
I’m going to start my review at the end and declare how much I enjoyed this book. I knew from the start I was going to find Space Hopper emotional as it tells the story of Faye and her thirty-year long grief for the loss of her mother. I wasn’t wrong – I found my eyes leaking a few times. But as much as this story is set against a backdrop of bereavement, it is genuinely uplifting and heartwarming because it’s essentially, and delightfully, a tribute to the power of the mother-daughter bond.
Space Hopper is narrated by Faye, and reads as something of a confession – the reason for this will become clear towards the end of the book. She’s in her mid thirties and has a lovely family; her husband Eddie, and their two young daughters, Esther and Evie. But there’s an aching, mother-shaped hole in Faye’s life that her happiness can’t soothe. Faye lost her mother, Jeanie, when she was just eight years old, and although she grew up in the doting care of Em and Henry, she’s haunted by the scarcity of memories and mementoes from her early years. She has her mother’s well-thumbed recipe book, a photograph taken one Christmas, and an empty box that once held her Space Hopper. The box, which has been collecting cobwebs in the attic for years, also appears in that Christmas photo, and its rediscovery tiggers an emotional avalanche of memories for Faye. What was once a gift all those years ago, becomes a gift all over again; giving Faye the chance to travel back in time to re-live some special moments with her mother.
Yes, this poignant, emotionally-rich story does hinge on the unexpected. Whatever you classify it as – time travel, magic, fantasy – I urge you now not turn your nose up, even if these genres aren’t the type of books you usually reach for on the shelves. If you do, you will be missing a treat, and I’m hoping the rest of this review will convince you.
You must choose whether you read this book with your head or your heart. If your head prevails you may well scoff at the fantastical elements … but you will relish the subtle references to the science of psychology that will, most likely, influence the relationship you develop with this story. For example, Faye suffers a bump to the head on more than one occasion raising the question of concussion. Equally, she’s previously suffered from insomnia which can have a profound, sometimes hallucinatory, effect on your waking hours. Meditation and lucid dreaming are also mentioned; both of which are well-documented alternative forms of consciousness. The author is a psychology graduate, and I loved seeing these influences play a part in her book.
However, if you choose to read this book with your heart you’ll be drawn in to something remarkably moving. You’ll enjoy the Alice in Wonderland dynamic of Faye’s rather scary passage back to the late 70s. You’ll find yourself yearning for her to visit again. You’ll be hungrily craving the mentions of Panda Pops, Smurfs, Major Morgan, and Little Professor. Assuming you are a similar age as me (early/mid forties) you’ll be hurtling back to those wonderful, simple, happy days as fast as you can turn the pages of Space Hopper.
There’s not a single character in the book I didn’t develop a fondness for. Faye’s love for Eddie and her daughters pours out of the pages, forming a clear impression of a very strong and very happy family. Similarly, her affection for the staid, reliable Em and Henry conjure up the warm sense of cosseted safety that indulgent grandparents bestow upon us. But it was the relationship she strikes up with Jeanie and little Faye (her younger self) that I devoured; they way they all immediately clung to each other like reciprocal life rafts was deeply affecting.
Friendship … and the different roles that different friends play in our lives … was a structural thread running throughout the book. Whilst Faye’s oldest friends, Cassie and Clem, have been supportive powerhouses to Faye since their college years, it’s actually Louis, a work friend who Faye feels she can tell about her time-hops. I truly adored Louis; his frank directness and wry humour and matched in their enormity by his open mind and generous heart. He’s a joy to get to know. He was also a source of great interest to me, as he’s blind – has been since birth – and works with Faye at the RNIB. Like the psychology I mentioned earlier, blindness and the role of the RNIB is another gratifying facet of the author’s life that she’s drawn upon for this story.
‘Sometimes the best bits are attached to the not-so-good bits, and we just have to accept that‘
My feelings about the ending are complicated, even after twenty-four hours of pondering. Throughout the book I held onto a childish hope that if you wish hard enough, or search long enough just perhaps … *sighs* I’m an incurable romantic, and I dearly love the notion that mankind doesn’t (yet) have all the answers, and there are things out there we’ve yet to discover. The entire premise of the book balanced a fine line between fantastical hope and prosaic reality, but the final chapter pushed me from the madly hopeful to the disappointedly incredulous. However, this certainly won’t stop me from recommending Space Hopper to my friends … I’ll just be sure to pick the friends I know will read it with their hearts.
Having lost my beautiful, loving, kind, giggling mother in February 2017, this book plucked mercilessly at my heart strings. In my mind’s eye, Jeanie looked uncannily like my Mum, and Faye’s childhood home, her garden, her bedroom were all carbon-copies of my own at 76a High Street. I was carried away by the sheer familiarity of everything this book had to convey … and absolutely yes! I’d jump into that battered old box in a heartbeat just to spend more time with my precious, wholeheartedly-missed, Mum.
my review …
Thank you to the publishers, Simon & Schuster for sending me an advance copy of Space Hopper in return for an honest review.
Helen Fisher spent her early life in America but grew up mainly in Suffolk, England, where she now lives with her two children. She studied psychology at Westminster University and ergonomics at University College London, and worked as a senior evaluator in research at the Royal National Institute of Blind People. Faye, Faraway was her first novel.
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