The Cactus by Sarah Haywood

Published by Two Roads



People aren’t sure what to make of Susan Green—a prickly independent woman, who has everything just the way she wants it and who certainly has no need for messy emotional relationships.

Family and colleagues find her standoffish and hard to understand, but Susan makes perfect sense to herself, and that’s all she needs.

At forty-five, she thinks her life is perfect, as long as she avoids her feckless brother, Edward—a safe distance away in Birmingham. She has a London flat which is ideal for one; a job that suits her passion for logic; and a personal arrangement providing cultural and other, more intimate, benefits.

Yet suddenly faced with the loss of her mother and, implausibly, with the possibility of becoming a mother herself, Susan’s greatest fear is being realised: she is losing control.

This sparkling debut is a breath of fresh air with real heart and a powerful emotional punch. In Susan we find a character as exasperating and delightful as The Rosie Project’s Don Tillman. An uncompromising feminist and a fierce fighter, it’s a joy to watch her bloom.

When she discovers that her mother’s will inexplicably favours her brother, Susan sets out to prove that Edward and his equally feckless friend Rob somehow coerced this dubious outcome. But when problems closer to home become increasingly hard to ignore, she finds help in the most unlikely of places.

This is a delicious book in the vein of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (I mean, it’s really VERY similar in terms of first person narration even if the story is different. On the plus side, it’s far less traumatic.).

We see the world through the eyes of Susan Green, eyes that see the world differently. She doesn’t have time for any of that human emotion bullshit and wants to make sure that she’s in control of her own life. Obviously it’s not that easy when her mother dies, there are all sorts of feelings and practicalities to contend with and we’re along for the ride to see her cope with things.

Susan is a beautifully written character, something of an unreliable narrator as she doesn’t admit many things, even to herself. I particularly loved how little she cares of what other people think of her, as long as the things she does care about are taken care of, she’s happy.

This book is full of feminist under(and over-)tones; Susan is independent, unconventional in her approach to pretty much everything, incredibly belligerent and difficult to get to know. None of this changes for her to get her happy ending, she just finds the right people to spend her time with that appreciate her for who she is.

The story is very heartfelt, she has to deal with the loss of her mother while dealing with her family members – she doesn’t really fit in with them and struggles to find any common ground.

Overall, I found this book really funny and uplifting. It’s also going into the very sparse pile of ‘books I will read again’, I feel like there’s something else to be enjoyed in that book every time you read it.

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