‘Being Netta Wilde’ – Hazel Ward
An uplifting story of love, loss and second chances that celebrates friendship and human connections.
Netta Wilde was all the things Annette Grey isn’t. Netta Wilde was raw, unchecked and just a little bit rebellious. She loved The Clash and she loved being Netta Wilde.
Annette Grey is an empty, broken woman who hardly knows her own children. Of course, it’s her own fault. She’s a bad mother. An unnatural mother. At least, that’s what her ex-husband tells her.
The one thing she is good at …
the one thing that stops her from falling …
is her job.
When the unthinkable happens, Annette makes a decision that sets her on a journey of self-discovery and reinvention. Along the way, her life is filled with friends, family, dogs, and jam. Lots of jam.
Suddenly anything seems possible. Even being Netta Wilde again.
But, is she brave enough to take that final step when the secrets she keeps locked inside are never too far away?
This story grew on me as Annette Grey transformed into Netta Wilde. In my opinion, the narrative started as a bit drab and dull – just like Annette Grey’s character. However, as Annette blossomed into Netta, so did my enjoyment of the story. I grew to become really attached to her character and loved watching her change into such a strong woman.
Undoubtedly, the villain of the story is Netta’s estranged husband, Colin. What a spiteful man he is! Sympathising with her difficult relationship with her children, poor Netta is truly isolated and alone. Therefore, when she is made redundant, it is her friendship with Paula that allows Netta to become the person she has supressed all these years. Starting out by volunteering at the local foodbank evolves into making a widening group of friends, helping others and eventually, lots of jam making. Very idyllic!
However, not everything is a bed of roses for Netta. The repeated battles with Colin and her children were really quite awful. On the other hand, Netta tries to balance this with her growing connection of friends and it was lovely to see Netta grow in confidence as a person. As the story develops, Netta becomes a rather colourful character – reflected not just in her behaviour, but also how she dresses.
When Netta moves house, I think this was the tipping point of her character change. Putting down her roots, Netta attracts her friends like a moth to a flame. I loved the way the plot moved into jam making and, even though it was noted in the blurb, I wasn’t expecting how it was to come about. The small adventures and experiences that Netta has are all part of the connection that Ward establishes with the reader, to the point that I felt like I was living with Netta and being part of her transformation.
My favourite part of the story was the volcano scene. By this point, readers have been able to judge the supporting characters so, for my part, I felt Netta’s frustrations. Her dialogue, the wit and sarcasm had me simultaneously chuckling and cheering at Netta’s strength; no longer was she allowing herself to be dominated and trodden on. At last, she was standing up for herself and venting all the emotional baggage that she had been carrying for so many years. A definite turning point for Netta!
This was a lovely story and I really felt invested in the characters. Finishing the book, I was excited to learn that there will be a spin-off follow-up story and I am really interested to see what Ward produces next. Netta is a character that I feel many of us can relate to and have experienced her troubles of finding opportunities ending… but starting new, exciting challenges – regardless of age and position in life.
Hazel Ward was born in a back-to-back house in inner city Birmingham. By the time the council knocked the house flat and packed her family off to the suburbs, she was already something of a feral child who loved adventures. Swapping derelict houses and bomb pecks for green fields and gardens was a bit of a culture shock but she rose to the occasion admirably and grew up loving outdoor spaces and animals. Especially dogs, cats and horses.
Strangely, for someone who couldn’t sit still, she also developed a ferocious reading habit and a love of words. She wrote her first novel at fifteen, along with a lot of angsty poems, and was absolutely sure she wanted to be a writer. Sadly, it all came crashing down when her seventeen-year-old self walked out of school after a spot of bother and was either too stubborn or too embarrassed to go back. It’s too long ago to remember which. What followed was a series of mind-numbingly dull jobs that paid the bills but did little to quell the restlessness inside.
Always a bit of a smart-arse, she eventually managed to talk herself into a successful corporate career that lasted over twenty years until, with the bills paid and the children grown up, she was able to wave it all goodbye and do the thing she’d always wanted to do. While taking a fiction writing course she wrote a short story about a lonely woman who was being made redundant. The story eventually became her debut novel Being Netta Wilde.
Hazel still lives in Birmingham and that’s where she does most of her writing. When she’s not there, she and her partner can be found in their holiday home in Shropshire or gadding about the country in an old motorhome. Not quite feral anymore but still up for adventures.
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With thanks to Rachel’s Random Resources for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.