Home is where the heart is, but for Zu Forbes, the heartbeat of her home stopped a long time ago. After her mother, Deepika, died in a car accident, Zu couldn’t wait to escape the family home and the memories of her alcoholic, distressed mother. Zu left London, her father and twin brothers to work as an aid worker in Chechnya. Now however, she is back in her childhood home after losing her job, and itching to leave once more.
Ten Minutes to Fall in Love by Julia Llewellyn primarily follows Zu, as she tries to match-make her gentle dad, Tony, so she can leave London again and not feel guilty about doing so. Zu accepts a job at a dating agency, Temperley Bureau, hoping to find the perfect match for her father, maybe in the form of kind Gillian. But sometimes love is surprising and unexpected, as Zu is discovering by the reappearance of an old friend, Jack Henchie.
Zu is a very interesting protagonist. Llewellyn has created an unusual lead character: a twenty six year old female more capable of dealing with the Chechen authorities than her own family. Zu divides my opinion. She can be caring and witty, juxtaposed with prickly and distant. But even when I was unsure how I felt about Zu, I wanted her to find some peace in a place that represents turbulence. Deepika seems to have had a severe bearing on Zu. Although she died eight years ago, her presence is still largely felt in the novel. For Zu, returning home means coming back to memories she would rather suppress, of her drunken mother hurting those closest to her. At times, the effect Deepika had on Zu and Tony, and the love that is undeniably still felt for Deepika as a wife and mother, was heart-breaking. I often felt, however, that Deepika’s death and the subsequent removal of Zu from the family home raised questions that it didn’t answer. Growing up with a mother who loved drinking more than her daughter must have been terrible for Zu, but it felt like there was an underlying reason concerning her father that made Zu leave, a reason that was never fully explained.
The title of the novel is slightly misleading as the concept of ten minutes to fall in love cropped up a few times in the book, but it wasn’t a major idea. Although Ten Minutes to Fall in Love is concerned with new relationships: Zu finding someone for Tony and Zu herself falling for Jack, the love found in a family is what shines through. At the core of this book, is love: from the complex but unconditional love of families, to the blossoming, hopeful love of a new relationship.
Julia Llewellyn’s Ten Minutes to Fall in Love was an enjoyable read, about finding your home, family, and love.