Ruth is thirty years old. She works as a nurse in a care home and her fiance has just broken up with her. The only thing she has left of him is their shopping list for the upcoming week.
Starting with six eggs, and working through spaghetti and strawberries, apples and tea bags, this inventive novel builds a picture of a woman defined by the people she serves; her patients, her friends, and, most of all, her partner of ten years. Without him, Ruth needs to find out – with conditioner and single cream and a lot of sugar – who she is when she stands alone.
With her fresh unpredictable style, Franchini skewers modern relationships and toxic masculinity, moving effortlessly between humour and heartbreak to tell the story of a woman rebuilding herself on her own terms.
Oh no, this is going to be negative.
First off, the synopsis isn’t accurate. Don’t expect what the synopsis tells you.
I wasn’t sure about the shopping list idea, its execution. The book has the narrative in the format of dreams and emails. Skipped some of that because I didn’t find it relevant.
The characters are not likable. Ruth is the protagonist and I liked her in some of the parts of the book. I could relate to her confusion of social cues, friendships and sexual experiences. It took me a while to read Shelf Life because I felt disinterested and distant from the characters. Ruth’s ex is a worry. He’s a worrying character.
There is no doubt the writing is excellent. It might be enough for me to read another book in the future by the author. The hardback book, which I borrowed from my public library, is beautiful. The story itself was muddled.
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