It’s a real treat to be reviewing Diane Chandler’s Only Human on publication day as I close the launch celebrations. My enormous thanks to Stephanie Zia at Blackbird Books for inviting me to be part of this blog tour and for sending me a copy of Only Human in return for an honest review.
Published today, 8th September 2020 by Blackbird, Only Human is available for purchase through the links here.
Every betrayal has a consequence… one family… one summer… one woman.
The Bonds are, seemingly, a tight family unit, until one fateful summer when the temptations of lust and love come for them all…
Tiger mum Anna, who gave up her career to build the perfect home life in London’s leafy Chiswick, is shocked to the core when she discovers that her husband of 20 years is having an affair.
Her daughter meanwhile is transforming into a tricky teen chopping at the apron strings.
Then Jack walks into their lives. Sophie’s first boyfriend is a breath of fresh air for the whole family, and Anna gradually discovers new purpose for herself.
But when more deceit creeps in, tensions soar, and Anna is propelled through a tangled web of secrets and lies towards a devastating climax.
My Review of Only Human
Anna’s life is about to undergo some momentous changes.
If you’re looking for a fast paced twisty thriller that writhes its way from implausible beginning to end then Only Human is not for you. However, if you want an intelligent, highly charged and pitch perfect portrait of middle class life and marriage, look no further. I found Only Human absolutely fascinating. Without wishing to be disrespectful to younger readers, I have a feeling that Only Human is the kind of narrative that more mature readers will fully appreciate because it deals with the mid-life events many will recognise.
Other than Fred, whom I adored, I loathed most of the other characters, but I simultaneously found them mesmerising and felt I had been given a privileged insight into their innermost thoughts. The excellent quality of Diane Chandler’s writing wrought physical responses in me as a reader because she made Anna, Ollie and Sophie in particular so vivid, complex, flawed and, indeed, only human. I wanted to shake Sophie, scream at Anna and slap Ollie. Anna’s first person account is so intimate and revealing that it was as if I had become complicit in her behaviour and the events that happen. I may not have liked her, but my goodness I understood her completely.
The plot is so clever because much of it is typical of many families, where real drama elicits calmer responses in the characters, and trivial events ignite words and actions that are disproportionate, so that Only Human becomes a modern parable of family life. I found it both sophisticated and primordial in equal measure.
I loved the themes of family and relationships, fidelity and guilt, love and sexuality, identity and challenge that are so much a part of real life and upon which Diane Chandler shines a laser light that leaves the reader wondering how they might have behaved in similar circumstances. It’s as if Only Human is a kind of ‘what if’ version of your own life and I ended the book feeling incredibly grateful for the life I have in contrast to Anna’s.
I found Only Human the kind of book that I couldn’t tear myself from because I wanted to know what the outcomes would be for these misguided, selfish and compelling people. Only Human is a sophisticated, intense and urbane narrative that I thoroughly enjoyed and I really recommend it.
About Diane Chandler
Diane Chandler was a political lobbyist in Brussels and then worked at the European Commission for several years, where she managed overseas aid programmes in Ukraine just after the fall of communism. Back in London, she joined the Department for International Development (DFID) on the Ukraine and then Africa desks. Her first novel, The Road to Donetsk, draws on her experience of managing overseas aid programmes, and won the People’s Book Prize. Her second, Moondance, tackles the emotional impact of IVF fertility treatment on a loving couple. Only Human, her third novel, is about a woman struggling to find meaning in life after her husband cheats on her and her only daughter is about to fly the nest. Published 8th September 2020. Diane co-runs Creative Writing Workshops London with Stephanie Zia of Blackbird Digital Books, and also coaches aspiring writers. She is the host of chiswickbuzz TV Book Club, Words with Wine in W4.