No Number Nine by F J Campbell is the perfect read to get you in the mood for this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo!
Thank you to Helen Campbell and Kay Kett of Literally PR for sending me a free paperback copy of No Number Nine in return for an honest review.
Pip’s older sister, Holly, died two years previously while playing hockey. She and her husband Troy were famous hockey players, and both played on their respective national teams in the Olympics. The situation is complicated by the fact that Pip and Troy had an affair after Holly’s death, to help each other cope with their grief. Looking for a fresh start (and using her German skills), Pip takes an au pair position with the wealthy Von Feldstein family in Munich. She has to learn how to care for the youngest two Von Feldstein boys, as well as how to get along with the older two brothers, Billy and Leo. What she doesn’t realise before taking the position is that the family are all keen hockey players, and even own the local hockey club.
No Number Nine is an intriguing layered novel that has themes of grief, relationships and family dynamics. There is a lot here to unpack which makes it a much deeper novel than it initially appears.
Pip is such an interesting character. I enjoyed following her journey to self-acceptance and finding a way to live with her grief. Mourning Holly has altered Pip’s whole life — it’s destroyed her relationship with her parents, it’s taken away her own interest in hockey and isolated her from all of her friends, too. Pip was totally in awe of Troy, and just 16 when they started their affair to try and cope with their grief. While it was consensual, it’s incredibly uncomfortable as Troy was 10+ years older. I did feel quite sorry for Troy and his loss, but of course that doesn’t make what happened acceptable — he tries to replace Holly with Pip and it makes for a very sad and uncomfortable read.
When she moves to Munich, Pip decides not to tell the family about Holly, not wanting them to feel sorry for her. And when she discovers that they enjoy hockey and goes to the hockey club for the first time, her shock and grief is perfectly described — a total shock to her system. It was totally heartbreaking! I also loved the script-style moments, where Pip imagines scenarios in her head such as confiding in her sister or the reaction of others around her.
F J Campbell writes about loss in a very raw, real way. She perfectly encapsulates the heartbreak and ongoing pain when someone dies in a shocking and unexpected way. In addition, the relationship between Pip and Troy is also dealt with really well — particularly the huge age gap between the two. Troy’s ongoing pain at losing his wife is sensitively written, although his behaviour towards Pip is never excused. Pip’s relationship with her parents is also explored — Holly was seen as the ‘golden child’ in her family, which only increased after her death.
I really enjoyed the setting, too. Both Billy and Leo are working towards qualifying for the 2000 Sydney Olympics. I enjoyed this retro setting and it brought back fun memories for me of growing up around this time, such as references to songs on the radio and pop culture from this time period. And reading about the Olympics certainly made this a perfect read at the moment, during the 2021 Tokyo Olympic games!
She closed her eyes. It was like this every Olympic year. Everything stopped. Nothing else mattered. Every year of her life that she could remember had been marked by a World Cup or a Champions Trophy or European Championships, but most of all, the four-yearly Olympics. For hockey teams, the Olympic gold was the biggest prize of all. Pip’s life was measured not by her birthdays or achievements at school, but by her sister’s injuries or goals or medals won and lost. That was how it had been with the Mitchells and the Costas. And now with the von Feldsteins.
I loved the characters and the romance in this book too. Nadine, Pip’s best friend from England, is a great character and gives a much-needed reality check to some of the scenes. She is also great fun and the sort of best friend that everyone needs! Her dedication and loyalty to Pip after she loses her sister is really inspiring. Billy is also a great character — I loved the banter between Pip and Billy! All the conversations between Pip and her friends (old and new) are well-written and feel authentic, and not forced. Of course, this is a romance novel — and the romance is great (and steamier than I had expected, from the very start!).
There is definitely a lot more to this book than meets the eye from the initial blurb. While No Number Nine is centered around hockey, you certainly don’t have to know much about hockey to enjoy the book — the focus is on the characters and the relationships between them. And of course, the Olympics themes makes this an excellent choice to read during 2021 and the Tokyo Olympics.
The blurb for No Number Nine
What do you do when your amazing, beloved sister dies?
Hide in your room for two years.
Sleep with a very, very wrong man.
Leave home and start a new life, lying to everyone you meet including your kind employer, your curious friends and the man you love?
Pip Mitchell’s an expert at making seriously bad decisions. But when her past, present and future collide at the Sydney Olympic Games, she’s going to have to decide whose side she’s on – or she’ll lose everyone she loves.
FJ Campbell was born in Lytham and moved around a lot when she was younger, from the north to Kent and then the West Country. After school she was an au pair in Paris and that was the only job she was ever sacked from. FJ went to Manchester University and afterwards lived in London for nine years, Munich for 11 years, Zurich for two years and has now settled in St Albans – no more moving. She is married with two children and still plays hockey in exactly the same way she always has – badly and for fun.
FJ started writing in 2014 and has written three novels: No Number Nine, The Islanders and Enjoy the Silence (the latter both YA novels).
About the blog tour
I reviewed No Number Nine as part of a book tour organised by Literally PR. Check out the other bloggers taking part in this book tour for more reviews, extracts and guest posts!
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