Title: Out of Practice
Author: Penny Parkes
Publisher: Simon Schuster
Publication Date: 23 May 2016 – ePub (paperback due 28 July 2016)
Rating: 4 out of 5
Out of Practiceis based around a large country medical practice, which proves to be a hotbed of rivalry, resentment and romance – and that’s just the doctors. Think James Herriot meets House.
Meet married mum of two and successful GP Holly Graham as she relocates her family to join the team at The Practice at Beckerford, hoping to find the peaceful life she craves, despite the chaos that comes with her two year old twins and the troublesome state of her marriage. It will certainly be a challenge to keep her private and professional lives separate in such a tight-knit community.
Her colleagues have their own issues to contend with. The gorgeous Dr Dan Carter is struggling with to focus on work and the last thing he needs is any more stress; having his ambitious ex-girlfriend Dr Julia Channing working alongside him isn’t really helping. Thankfully, the rather delectable Dr Taffy Jones is on hand to distract Holly from the escalating situation at home.
Feisty octogenarian and resident celebrity, Elsie Townsend, is Holly’s favourite patient and saving grace. Elsie’s inspirational Life Lessons come at the perfect moment, as The Practice is suddenly under threat of imminent closure and Holly rediscovers her voice and her priorities just in time …
Thank you to Simon Schuster for providing a free copy of Out of Practice for review.
Out of Practice is the debut novel from author, Penny Parkes, and centres around the GP surgery in the village of Larkford.
Dr Holly Graham’s self-esteem is at rock bottom. After deciding to give her husband, ‘magnificent’ Milo, a second chance, she has uprooted her family in order to start afresh in Larkford. Holly is determined to make her marriage work and is hoping that the move will not only help her to improve her relationship with her philandering husband Milo but will also provide a good place for her two year old twin sons, Tom and Ben, to grow up.
However, life in Larkford proves very different to Holly’s expectations…
Holly is initially excited to be living nearer to her best friend, Lizzie, and her husband Will, the only people whom she can confide in about her marriage woes. However, as Holly tries to regain some of her old-self and some of her former self-esteem, she realises that their friendship may not be quite as it seems. Whilst Lizzie is happy to bad-mouth Milo and revile his controlling behaviour, she does not seem to recognise that her own manipulative behaviour towards Holly is very nearly as bad!
It is only as Holly forges some new (and unexpected) friendships and is told some home truths by her straight-speaking new friends, that she realises how out-of-kilter her life is and how much of a shell of her former-self she has become.
As if her own personal problems are not proving stressful enough, Holly finds herself quickly draws into the foibles and problems of the local residents/patients. She finds that being a local GP is a 24-7 job, even when supposedly off duty. Holly also finds working in a country practice to be eye-opening, with rivalries and dramas simmering under the surface at the surgery.
I can’t really say much more about the plot line without risking giving too much away, however I am happy to say that the plot is interesting and well-paced. I enjoyed Parkes’ easy style of writing and found myself quickly absorbed into life in Larkford.
The characters are a real strength in this story. Holly is a hugely endearing protagonist, with her clumsy ways, perky outlook and her innate kindness. I could not help but warm to her immediately. The supporting characters are equally as well-written and contribute to the pace and content of the story. Parkes has also provided the reader with a fantastic cast of doctors at the surgery – dishy Dr Dan Carter who is dealing with his own issues, the laid back Welsh locum Taffy Jones, the icy Dr Julia, the smarmy Dr Henry Bruce, OCD-suffering pharmacist Maggie and the practice nurses Grace, Jade, Jason and Lucy. The local residents also prove to be an entertaining mix with irrepressible elderly film star Elsie Townsend, the doctor-dodging Major, judgmental Cassie and a few other challenging patients.
Feisty Elsie was undoubtedly my favourite character and a real scene stealer – with her eccentric ways, memory lapses and her words of wisdom, she is always there to provide a cocktail and some worldly advice when needed (whether requested or not)!
In the setting of Larkford, Parkes has created a wonderfully idyllic village with a great sense of community spirit, centering around the main staples of a village – the café, the village shop and the GP surgery. Yes, it’s one of those maddening places where everyone knows everyone else’s business, yet it’s also one of those places where when faced with a problem you have an entire community on hand ready to help out. I’m sure that life in such a village can prove frustrating and rewarding in equal measures, however it is certainly a great place for Holly to start afresh with her young family.
Out of Practice is a great debut novel and a truly delightful read, both laugh-out-loud funny and very touching. A warm and uplifting story of village life, full of lively characters and more than a splash of romance, this is a great book to curl up with on a quiet afternoon – a real page-turner!
About the Author
Penny Parkes survived a Convent education largely thanks to a ready supply of inappropriate novels and her passion for writing and languages.
She studied International Management in Bath and Germany, before gaining experience with the BBC. She then set up an independent Film Location Agency and spent many happy years organising shoots for film, television and advertising – thereby ensuring that she was never short of travel opportunities, freelance writing projects or entertaining anecdotes.
Penny now lives in the Cotswolds with her husband, two children and a geriatric spaniel. She will often be found plotting epic train journeys through the Alps, baking gluten-free goodies or attempting to prove that you can, in fact, teach an old dog new tricks.