ShortBookandScribes #BookReview – Old & Ugly by C L Moir

I’m reviewing Old & Ugly by C L Moir today. My thanks to Behind the Hat Press for sending me a copy of the book for review purposes along with gin and tonic!

Ange has been invited to a reunion… Old and Ugly is the story of that reunion – and the story of Ange’s life. Hilarious and laughable, conceited and fearful, feisty and (some might say) a fool for the admiration of men, Ange must finally confront the truth about her fantastical life of glamour and good fortune to be freed from its secrets – and freed from the man who made her, then broke her. Irreverent and moving, disturbing and joyful, you’ve probably never read anything quite like it…

Before I talk about the story, can I just say what a beautiful experience reading Old & Ugly was. It’s a gorgeous little clothbound book dotted throughout with illustrations by Owen Lawrence. It was a pleasure to hold and read.

Now to the story which I found unexpected. I don’t think I’ve read anything quite like it before. As the book begins, Ange is in the back of a Bentley on her way to a reunion with Elizabeth and three other old friends. Back in 1973, Ange and Elizabeth took part in a beauty contest, competing to be Miss Sladport-on-Sea. Ange won, much to Elizabeth’s disdain. Ange was a great beauty and went off to be married several times and to enjoy a life of seeming glamour. Elizabeth, meanwhile, married Spencer, the man who was responsible for Ange’s 15 minutes of fame, but also for shaping the whole of her life in the worst possible way.

This is a book with layers. At first it seems to be a witty and brutal story of rivalry between two former friends (they’re incredibly and shockingly mean about each other!) but as the story progresses the depth of Spencer’s effect on Ange becomes apparent and it turned into rather a sad story of control, abuse and cruelty. Needless to say, the thought of coming face to face with Spencer again leaves Ange feeling more than a little nervous.

Former beauty queen, Ange, is now 26 stone but she’s not lost her glamour, her pizzazz or her sass. We hear lots about her cashmere blankets, her designer bags and shoes, and yet it’s all clearly a front for her inner heartache. I did like Ange. I was never quite sure if she was living in a bit of a fantasy world or not but there’s something rather endearing about her.

Old & Ugly is all things: it’s funny yet moving, it’s disturbing, it’s wicked and bitchy, it’s surprising. I found it to be a delightful little read. Like Ange, why not pour yourself a gin and tonic and settle in for a night of cutting remarks and frank confessions at Elizabeth’s Elizabethan mansion?

CL Moir has been writing for over 20 years. She was born in Bristol and now lives in Herefordshire. Old and Ugly is her first novel.

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