Trigger warnings: Death, grief, alcohol use, drug use, fertility and infertility
Ivy Edwards is thirty-one years old, funny, shameless, and a bit of a romantic. She’s also currently trying not to cry in the office toilet.
Partly because she’s just run out of money for fags. A bit because her mum continues to annoy her. Definitely not because she’s just been dumped by her fiancé.
With her London life in shambles and her family miles away in the Welsh valleys, Ivy doesn’t actually feel like she belongs anywhere.
At least, she has her friends – and a bottle of vodka.
Embarking on a journey of singlehood, Ivy is about to discover that sometimes, having your life fall apart can be surprisingly fun.
Sometimes, heartbreak can be the best education . . .
After listening to the Hannah Tovey episode of this wonderful podcast , I knew I had to get my hands on her books (my review of her latest, Is This It? will be on the blog tomorrow) and I’m so glad I did.
Much like The Lucky Escape by Laura Jane Williams, The Education of Ivy Edwards follows a woman as she moves on from an ex fiancé (or attempts to). Unlike that book, however, thirty-something Ivy doesn’t have a glamorous holiday destination to escape to. Instead, she finds solace in booze, cigarettes, her wild friends Dan and Mia and her loving, if dysfunctional family in Wales.
Ivy is a wonderful protagonist. Though she’s incredibly self destructive and flawed, there’s an undeniable wit and warmth about her that definitely drew me in. I was in constant conflict as I read this book between supporting her and wanting to shake her and say get a grip, will you?! Though she may be at a different stage of life to me, I couldn’t help but feel that — in some ways — I’d met a kindred spirit through Ivy. We’ve all felt at a loss in ourselves and I think Tovey communicates this perfectly through Ivy and her spiralling- then eventually rebuilding herself — as the book goes on.
Though I had a difficult time with Ivy’s friends, I loved her family. Her over-the-top mother was great when I needed comedy relief, her dad was a good support network and her sister — despite having her own problems, which were dealt with seriously but with a light hearted tone — was lovely. They all had their own flaws, as all families do, but they provided a lightness that this book needed and they were a breath of fresh air when things got a little bit too serious.
Tovey is brilliant at carving out settings. I’ve only been to London once but she captures the hundred miles an hour chaotic nature of the city really well. Wales, by contrast, feels calmer, more comforting with richer descriptions. I don’t know a word of Welsh (so the glossary of Welsh words at the end really helped!) but the parts that took place in Wales were a lovely read for me, as it reminded me of my childhood spent holidaying in Wales. Covey nails how the familiar- both places and people – feels, comforting, warm, grounding.
Perhaps the best thing about this book is the way it talks about grief. It has a double layer of grief, I suppose, as Ivy mourns the loss of her relationship and — later on —- she experiences a very real, and very heartbreaking, loss. This was actually the first book that’s ever made me cry, as the grief Ivy feels is so heartbreaking and so raw. It was very confronting for me as I lost my Grandad last year and I think reading this book, and feeling the same feelings that Ivy felt, allowed me to truly grieve in a way I don’t think I had allowed myself to before. It was these parts, more than anything in this book, that stayed with me.
Whilst watching the title character spiral out of control was unpleasant at times, The Education of Ivy Edwards was a joy to read. I don’t think I’ll stop thinking about Ivy – or this book – for a long time. It is not necessarily the easiest of reads but it is real, it is raw and I think it is the kind of book that we need as we navigate growing up in a rapidly changing world.
You can buy this book here.
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