We’re delighted to be on the HQ tour today sharing Elena’s thoughts about All About Us by Tom Ellen.
Wow I loved this brilliant romantic comedy based on Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’.
Ben is married to Daphne who he has been with since their university days. Their relationship has been deteriorating for the past couple of years ever since his mother died and Ben is wondering whether he made the right decision years ago to stay with Daphne or whether he should’ve got together with Alice, a girl he had feelings for in his first term at university.
One night before Christmas Daphne instructs Ben to decorate the tree and wrap some presents while she is at her works do. Before he does, he goes for a drink with his best mate Harv offloading on him how he thinks he should’ve chosen Alice years ago and generally lamenting the fact that his relationship seems to be over. While they are chatting in the pub, an old man approaches Ben and tries to sell him a watch. After Ben says ‘no’, he gives it to him for free and he quickly realises that the watch is broken with the hands stuck at 11:59pm. After going up to the attic to sort the decorations for the tree he spots some objects that Daphne has kept charting some key moments in their relationship and soon goes on a trip down memory lane. Next thing he knows he wakes up in 2005, the night of his university play and the night he meets Daphne.
From then on, every night at 11:59 the world goes blank and he wakes up in another time in his past. It’s an opportunity for him to change his response to everything that’s happened to him and make things right.
When he gets a glimpse into his future, what he sees cements the path he knows he must take going forward and what is right for him in the long term.
The old man with the reindeer tie who gives him the watch at the beginning appears at various points while Ben revisits his past for a day. He has an inkling that he’s met this old man before but he always seems to disappear before Ben can get any answers from him which frustrates him.
We’ve all wondered at some point ‘What if I’d done things differently?’ and this story shows how we are a sum of all the decisions we have made.
All About Us is beautiful and emotive. I found it funny, sad (I read through tears at certain points), thought-provoking and entertaining. I loved Ben’s character and his journey to accept himself and all his mistakes and take ownership of all his actions. There are some wonderful characters in the book (Daphne, Ben’s mum, Harv). Some are hilarious (Marek). Others are quite odious (Alice and her friends).
The writing style is familiar and inviting and I truly escaped into Ben’s world. I enjoyed it so much I give it 5 stars and would absolutely love to see this in the cinema as a film. I keep thinking about it too, another sign that I’ve loved a book!
Tom is an author and journalist from London, England. He is the co-writer of three critically acclaimed Young Adult novels: LOBSTERS (which was shortlisted for The Bookseller’s inaugural YA Book Prize), NEVER EVERS and FRESHERS. His solo adult debut novel is the romantic comedy ALL ABOUT US (HQ/HarperCollins, published October 2020). His books have been widely translated and are published in 20 countries. He is a regular contributor to Viz magazine, and has also written for Cosmopolitan, Empire, Evening Standard Magazine, The Daily Mash, Glamour, NME, ESPN, ShortList, Time Out London, Vice, Stylist and many more. Twitter @TomEllen7