Cover image for Life skills
Life skills
Fforde, Katie.
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
343 pages ; 25 cm
Format :


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Newly not engaged and suddenly out of work, Julia Fairfax needs a new direction. The classified ad that catches her eye sends her on a romantic adventure on a rickety old hotel boat. Life Skills tells the warm, funny story of old lovers and new friends taking twists and turns along England's scenic canals.

Part romp, part romance, part step-by-step guide to how NOT to see England's scenic canals, Life Skills will delight fans of Marian Keyes, Jane Heller, and others who write light, smart, funny romance.

Author Notes

Catherine Rose Gordon-Cumming was born on 27 September 1952 in Wimbledon, London. She is founder of the Katie Fforde Bursary for writers who have yet to secure a publishing contract. She was for many years a committee member of the Romantic Novelists' Association and was elected its twenty-fifth chairman (2009-2011) and later its fourth president. In June 2010 she was announced as a patron of the UK's first National Short Story Week.

Many of Fforde's own experiences end up in her books. Her novel Going Dutch was a Sunday Times top ten bestseller in June 2007. Her titles include Stately Pursuits, Going Dutch, The Undercover Cook, The Perfect Match and A Summer at Sea.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Julia Fairfax has spent the last six years working hard to develop a new department at her job, only to have it taken away from her and given to someone younger and less experienced. At the same time, she finds herself engaged to a man whom she really doesn't know much about, and what she does know, she really doesn't like. She decides to go against her usual stable, reliable self and act rashly, so she ends her engagement, quits her job, and puts her house up for rent for the summer. She takes a job as a cook working on a pair of hotel boats that will sail the canals of England and sets off for a summer of hard work, no days off, and escape from her ex-fianceand his overbearing mother. But Julia doesn't realize how easy she is to find after all, and it isn't just her ex-fiancewho finds her. Despite its slightly exasperating heroine, Fforde's romance is witty, original, and perfect for readers looking for something different. --Alexandra Baker Shrake

Publisher's Weekly Review

A seven-foot-wide, 70-foot-long hotel boat that cruises from London to Birmingham provides the off-beat setting for this breezy romantic novel by British author Fforde (Stately Pursuits). As the story opens, 34-year-old Julia Fairfax has just decided to change her life as radically as possible. She breaks up with her sexist upper-class fianc‚, quits her job and answers an ad for a ship's cook on a 10-passenger barge-like boat She hits it off immediately with her new employer, flighty 24-year-old Suzy Boyd, a wayward daughter of bluebloods who's embarking on her first season of managing her uncle's boat. But when the only other crewman abruptly quits, Julia and Suzy are left disastrously shorthanded until help arrives in the form of Fergus Grindley, sent by Julia's nosy New Age mother. Suzy hires Fergus despite Julia's longtime grudge against him over a childhood prank, and readers will quickly recognize that her aversion falls into the clich‚d category of hate-first, love later. When her ex-fianc‚ (with his mother and black Labrador puppies in tow) books a two-week passage to try to win Julia back, the complications increase. Julia has a satisfyingly dry wit, and she's believable as an everyday heroine, adamantly independent yet self-conscious about her single status. The engaging plot is fleshed out with a supporting cast of relatives, crew and boat passengers. When Julia finds herself pregnant, however, and landlocked, readers may feel as though two different stories have been uncomfortably spliced together. Still, Julia and Suzy are funny and appealing, and their boating adventures turn them into a nautical Thelma and Louise as they explore female friendship, the lure of hunky men and sexual crises of several kinds. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Fforde's third cute-and-quaint English romance (following Wild Designs and Stately Pursuits) takes us on a delightful journey and provides a happily predictable ending. Two young women, Suzy and Julia, decide to take on the task of managing a sort of floating bed-and-breakfast on a canal barge. Suzy is trying to gain a little confidence and independence from her overbearing and very rich father, while Julia is on the rebound from a broken engagement and a career setback. The two women are determined to make a success of their business venture despite a variety of frustrating but highly entertaining mishaps. A defecting crew member, well-meaning but interfering relatives, and an old childhood nemesis of Julia's offer some pretty funny and surprising complications. Fforde's writing blends just the right amounts of wit and wisdom to bring her characters and story line to life. This charming and captivating romantic summer read is recommended for all collections.ÄMargaret Ann Hanes, Sterling Heights P.L., MI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.