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Life Skills Hardcover – September, 1999

3.9 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A seven-foot-wide, 70-foot-long hotel boat that cruises from London to Birmingham provides the off-beat setting for this breezy romantic novel by British author Fforde (Stately Pursuits). As the story opens, 34-year-old Julia Fairfax has just decided to change her life as radically as possible. She breaks up with her sexist upper-class fianc?, quits her job and answers an ad for a ship's cook on a 10-passenger barge-like boat She hits it off immediately with her new employer, flighty 24-year-old Suzy Boyd, a wayward daughter of bluebloods who's embarking on her first season of managing her uncle's boat. But when the only other crewman abruptly quits, Julia and Suzy are left disastrously shorthanded until help arrives in the form of Fergus Grindley, sent by Julia's nosy New Age mother. Suzy hires Fergus despite Julia's longtime grudge against him over a childhood prank, and readers will quickly recognize that her aversion falls into the clich?d category of hate-first, love later. When her ex-fianc? (with his mother and black Labrador puppies in tow) books a two-week passage to try to win Julia back, the complications increase. Julia has a satisfyingly dry wit, and she's believable as an everyday heroine, adamantly independent yet self-conscious about her single status. The engaging plot is fleshed out with a supporting cast of relatives, crew and boat passengers. When Julia finds herself pregnant, however, and landlocked, readers may feel as though two different stories have been uncomfortably spliced together. Still, Julia and Suzy are funny and appealing, and their boating adventures turn them into a nautical Thelma and Louise as they explore female friendship, the lure of hunky men and sexual crises of several kinds.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Fforde's third cute-and-quaint English romance (following Wild Designs and Stately Pursuits) takes us on a delightful journey and provides a happily predictable ending. Two young women, Suzy and Julia, decide to take on the task of managing a sort of floating bed-and-breakfast on a canal barge. Suzy is trying to gain a little confidence and independence from her overbearing and very rich father, while Julia is on the rebound from a broken engagement and a career setback. The two women are determined to make a success of their business venture despite a variety of frustrating but highly entertaining mishaps. A defecting crew member, well-meaning but interfering relatives, and an old childhood nemesis of Julia's offer some pretty funny and surprising complications. Fforde's writing blends just the right amounts of wit and wisdom to bring her characters and story line to life. This charming and captivating romantic summer read is recommended for all collections.AMargaret Ann Hanes, Sterling Heights P.L., MI
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 343 pages
  • Publisher: St Martins Pr; 1st U.S. ed edition (September 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312209517
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312209513
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.2 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,931,666 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Katie Fforde does a great job of writing smart, funny yet sweet romantic fiction. "Life Skills" tells the story of Julia Fairfax, who makes some dramatic changes in her life -- quitting her job, dumping her fiance, subletting her house -- then takes an unusual job as a cook on a canal boat while she sorts things out. Too much canal boat lingo and too many technical details about boating threatened to overwhelm the story before it got going, but I persevered, and eventually got hooked. Although there's a lot to recommend this book if you're looking for a pleasant read that is romantic yet real and intelligent, it's not Katie Fforde's best. I found the characters a wee bit predictable (e.g. stuffy snobbish matron, dull conventional ex-fiance, daddy's little princess); and the plot meandering. Perhaps I've merely been spoiled by Ms. Fforde's earlier efforts, notably "Stately Pursuits" and "Wild Designs," and you might want to check them out first.
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By A Customer on May 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Fforde gives the reader funny supporting characters and a great hero in this book, but the heroine has to be on of the most exasperating characters ever written! Most of her actions make no sense, and her reasoning (when she bothers to give a reason) is often weak and rather stupid. LIFE SKILLS does have many redeeming qualities, such as Fforde's descriptions of longboating, but the heroine is very, very silly. If you want a good Fforde book, read STATELY PURSUITS, which is absolutely lovely!
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By A Customer on December 26, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I gave 5 stars to Ms. Fforde's 2 previous books, but only 4 to this one because I didn't like the main character. The story line was interesting, and I enjoyed learning about canal hotel-boating. It had her usual style of humor and many interesting characters.
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Format: Hardcover
This was the first Katie Fforde that I ever read, and I found it a delightful romp, full of entertaining details about running a hotel boat through England's canals. Delicious diction too, replete with modern British vernacular which will both puzzle and amuse American readers. The book is marred by a main character who is as frustrating as Kissy Mellors in Tabitha King's Survivor, unwilling to recognize a true Prince Charming when she seems him. Thinking I had found a worthwhile new author, I read Fforde's Wild Designs and Stately Pursuits and was quite disappointed -- her protagonists are all cut from the same cloth, and both books lacked the spark of Life Skills.
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By A Customer on April 3, 2000
Format: Hardcover
i was a bit disappointed, as i have read her other books. this seems to get bogged down with all the barge lore for almost half of the book and then the actual story and ending seem rushed. do read her previous works!
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
A week after I moved from Europe back to the USA, I discovered "Life Skills" by accident at a local Wal-Mart, of all places. At the time, I didn't realise it was Brit chick fiction, which I buy whenever I'm in London. I just about inhaled this book. Katie Fforde writes so well, I could see myself with the heroine on this crowded and cramped hotel boat, maneuvering tedious waterways and coping with the weirdo guests. I stayed up all night just to finish it, and I was genuinely sorry when the story ended. This is not "War and Peace," but a fun, escapist read, which reminded me of my various Brit friends, most of whom act and talk just like Katie's characters. I liked this so much, I bought the rest of her paperbacks on my last trip to London! For those who don't know Katie Fforde's writing, "Life Skills" is a fab introduction.
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Format: Hardcover
This is not a BAD book, and certainly worth reading, but I must admit I found it slow going. As another reviewer aptly observed, after "Stately Pursuits" and "Wild Designs," I was expecting something wonderful. "Life Skills" is not wonderful. Still, it is a sweet, albeit slow, story of a woman in transition from a job and a dull fiance to something she hopes is better. Julia is often hard to like, especially when she is constantly boorish to the potential love interest, Fergus. One wonders what he sees in her; she is not at all nice to him until pratically the last page of the book! I admit I was disappointed in "Life Skills," but not enough to put me off Fforde, and not enough to tell other readers not to try it themselves.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
An enjoyable bit of Brit Chick Lit, LIFE SKILLS has all the requisite ingredients: two very different friends (sensible, independent Julia and glamorous Daddy's girl Suzy), one unsuitable suitor, a suitable suitor who is rebuffed, an odd occupation (operating a canal boat hotel), and a couple of non-relationship-related crises. Fforde keeps the story moving, interspersing lots of information about canal boats holidays, which sound quite pleasant (Hmmm vacation idea...). There is some frustration with Julia's stubborn refusal to give her suitable suitor Fergus any sort of chance, but that's the stuff of Chick Lit. A fun read overall.
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