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Shelf Life

3.31  ·  Rating details ·  100 ratings  ·  35 reviews

'An impressive, Sally Rooney-esque debut novel' New Statesman

'Shelf Life is whip-smart, slyly heartbreaking, and I felt the truth of it in my bones. Franchini dissects ideas of love, dating and identity in a way that feels both ruthless and humane. I loved it.'
Sophie Mackintosh, author of The Water Cure

Launching an intelligent, perceptive new voice in fiction, Shelf/>Launchingof/>'Shelf
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published August 29th 2019 by Doubleday
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Average rating 3.31  · 
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 ·  100 ratings  ·  35 reviews

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Aug 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I have the pleasure to be a friend of the author so I will just put it out there for what it is and you can decide for yourself if I am a reliable commenter: I first discovered Livia because of her poetry (which is my main interest) and since then followed her from afar until few years ago, when we got close. I am a lucky friend and lucky women's writings scholar because her book really resonated with me both personally and scholarly! It confirmed to me her greatest writing trait: to be extremel ...more
Susie Anderson
Sep 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
a joy to find this London connection debut novel in the Northcote bookshop! an impressive format that I devoured in a day or so, I could probably have kept reading, and would have liked more depth with some of the peripheral storylines although not about the heinous long term partner. I am left with questions and many thoughts about why we seek relationships - of course understandably, comfort, love, desire and aversion to loneliness, but so many people seem coupled in an unconscious way. as it' ...more
Ashwini Abhyankar
Aug 25, 2019 rated it liked it
When you start a book while keeping your expectations in check because the synopsis was very promising and a bit unique but then the book disappoints you in various ways, what are you supposed to do?

That’s the question that kept me from writing the review for this one for a few days.

After a decade of being together, Ruth is left alone when her partner Neil leaves her. All she has after that are the memories of Neil, her work as a nurse in an old people’s home and lists of
Caroline Kerdouci
Aug 09, 2019 rated it did not like it
I honestly didn’t know what to make of this novel. It is imaginatively written under the headings from a shopping list, written prior to Ruth and her partner Neil going their separate ways. We follow Ruth through this breakup as she navigates her life beyond, working as a nurse in a care home alongside colleagues/friend Alanna and the two ‘Lolitas’. I found these passages relatively easy to read and at times humorous but ultimately Shelf Life is a depressing read. Ruth cuts a strange and sad fig ...more
Rosalind Bryden
Aug 14, 2019 rated it liked it
I found this a tricky one to review. I certainly enjoyed a lot of the book, but was left feeling a bit adrift at the end, maybe just wanting a little more in the last section. It would be a good book for book groups as I certainly wanted to talk to someone once I'd got to the end to ask their opinion of the outcome.

The story is based around Ruth, who is taking her first steps following the breakup of a ten-year relationship with Neil. The chapters are structured around the couple's l
miss.mesmerized mesmerized
After ten years together, Ruth finds herself suddenly alone. Neil has left and all that her life consists of now is her work as a nurse in an old people’s home and shopping groceries at the small Tesco close to her flat. How did she get here? First, the escape of her ill-willed mother, then her friend Alanna whom she met in nursery school and with whom she still works together, the different patients and their respective needs, and Neil whom she despite all the time together seems to have hardly ...more
Aug 28, 2019 rated it it was ok
With thanks to Transworld Publishers and NetGalley for an advance review copy.

This is a book that sadly left me cold. I could see what the author was trying to do, but much of her technique seemed to be there for its own sake, rather than driving the telling of her story.

Ruth has been in a relationship with Neil for 10 years and they are engaged, when he announces one evening that he is leaving her to move to a commune. In her shell-shock she focuses on the week’s shoppin
Nicola Smith
Sep 01, 2019 rated it liked it
I have a serious case of cover love with this book. Isn't it gorgeous? And significant to the storyline too.

This is the story of Ruth, a 30 year old woman. As the book begins her partner of 10 years, Neil, has left her. It's clear that she relied on him hugely and she's cast adrift without him. All that is left is a shopping list for the upcoming week and this list forms the chapter titles for the entire book, e.g. six eggs, sandwich bread, diet coke and so on. There is a link betwee
Ronnie Turner
Sep 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Thirty year old Ruth is devastated when long term partner Neil reveals he wants to break up. One moment, she is washing the pots, engagement ring safely tucked away, the next, everything begins to change. Ten years of life, the home they have made unravels. With a pair of soapy marigolds on her hands, she is caught unaware by Neil’s sudden departure. He dashes through the house, packs his things and leaves, even taking the laundry basket with him. Ruth is left adrift, weightless, afraid to be al ...more
Anita Baião
Sep 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Books, like people, are many things to many different people. For me Shelf Life is about not fitting in to the idea people have of a person. It could easily be a story about abandonment and how to cope with it, but Ruth, the main character does not offer any insight to her grief. She just narrates her daily life with an aloofness that does not make her unsympathetic. I felt for Ruth, I wanted to know more about her odd relationship with food and her mother, I wanted to sit her down with a cup of ...more
Jo Barton
Aug 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
First off it has to be said that I was influenced by the book cover, which I think is especially eye catching, so kudos to the jacket designer, as this is definitely one of those books I would pick up in a book store.

The premise of the story, which focuses on Ruth's break up with Neil, her fiancé, is devised around a shopping list which is the only thing that remains of their time together. By using the mundane items on the list to tell her story, Ruth's feelings about who she thinks she is and
Cheryl M-M
Aug 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
I do hope this read gets the recognition it deserves. It's an incredibly introspective and clever piece of literary and women's fiction. Part of me thinks it would make more sense or rather be more self-explanatory if given a visual medium, which probably sounds quite bizarre given the fact it's a book.

Think Eleanor Oliphant with a more keen sense of self and survival. A woman, Ruth, who we follow as she goes through the process of grief and finding herself after the end of a long-te
Corinne Sparks
Jul 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
This will be a divisive book in women's experimental fiction, I think.
If you enjoy the more liberal and less plot snapshots of a life, then I think you will enjoy this.
Ruth is going through a relationship break up. It is told through snapshots of each item on the last joint shopping list they made together, but also includes pov from the 'friends' in her life and her ex partner.
It's indescribably sad, and melancholic. I felt Ruth was a deeply depressed, anorexic woman that had spent ten
Rosemary M
Aug 22, 2019 rated it it was ok
Thanks to Random House UK, Transworld Publishers and NetGalley for allowing me to read an advance copy of this book.

I was intrigued by the format of this story. After her husband of ten years leaves her, the only thing Ruth has left to connect them is a shopping list. Each item on the shopping list is a chapter and describes different times in Ruth’s life and the few people she has in it.
Initially I felt sorry for Ruth, I can empathise with her feeling of heartbreak and struggling to carry on
Joanne Cartwright
Aug 12, 2019 rated it liked it
Although the story line premise was excellent I found Shelf life extremely hard to read.
This is due in part to the font./typesetting used for the text message sections. I found these extremely hard to read due to the text, colour and the line breaks not really working (at least on the ARC kindle edition although I acknowledge things may look very different in the final version). The novel was also very disjointed and it was sometimes hard to keep a track of who was speaking/thinking/dreami
Sep 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Well this is a strange one. I didn’t love it if I’m being honest I think I was drawn in by the cover, don’t judge, it happens. But there were elements I really enjoyed. Equally there were parts I didn’t really feel were necessary (the dreams?)

This book is based around the character Ruth. It begins with her splitting up from her partner of a decade Neil. The chapters are named after items from their shopping list and play a very tiny part in story.

The narrative jumps back and forth i
Daisy Dooley
Sep 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelf Life documents the life of Ruth Beadle, both before her break up with long-term partner Neil, and in the months following. We hear from Ruth herself, we skip backwards to conversations between girls she attended school with, and we read excerpts from her friend Alanna's diary. Ruth is an interesting character and the book was original, but I felt somehow that the reader needed to know more. Perhaps that is a strength of the writing, in that it is left up to us to decide why Ruth makes the ...more
Aug 25, 2019 rated it liked it
(I’d say more of the 3.5, but 4 stars felt too glowy)

Most of the time when reading a book, I would normally have a sense of what it is and where it’s going a hundred or so pages in, definitely by the halfway point; With Shelf-Life I wasn’t ever really sure.

Livia Franchini is definitely attempting something different with a familiar story (or story type). I love the idea of telling the story of a relationship/breakup through a shopping list, it did however feel like an acc
Aug 22, 2019 rated it did not like it
I just couldn't get 100% on board with this one.

Even though it was cleverly written it just felt lacking throughout and I found it really hard to get through.

The actual layout and font of each section fuddled my brain, nothing seemed to flow properly but hopefully all that will be ironed out before print.

The actual premise of the book really intrigued me but once I started reading I found it quite boring, my mind ended up wandering and thinking if my own shopp
Libby Clare
Oct 14, 2019 rated it really liked it

Mostly I just have lots of questions... like, what? Did I miss something? I feel quite thick right now... someone help me. What just happened in this book?

Let’s start with what I do know:
1. The writing was very good; it had an effortless flow to it and I found myself greedily reading this book in great chunks.

2. Compelling characters and plot.

3. I had no idea what was going to happen throughout; I quite liked that because it meant I had to work hard and pay atte
Jenna Clare
Sep 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Really really enjoyed this book and read it really fast. It was written beautifully and to me it really flowed. I liked the unique formats of certain chapters and I also loved that each chapter was based on a shopping list and I really enjoyed how Franchini made that work. Ruth and her partner Neil breakup and the shopping list is the last thing she has from the both of them. I was going to give this book 4 stars because I feel like certain things that happen in the book could be explored more, ...more
Aug 11, 2019 rated it it was ok
The idea behind this story was brilliant but I'm afraid that the execution of it bored me to the point that I skimmed through the pages to the end. I read to the end partly to see how things would pan out and also because I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I'm just sorry that I cannot give a better one.

The story is based around a couple who have split up and the girlfriend is left with a shopping list. There is a reason for each ingredient and this mak
Aug 20, 2019 rated it it was ok
I’m confused as to what I’ve just read. Parts of this book were interesting and made sense. But unfortunately I found the rest of it disjointed and very confusing. I didn’t find the characters likeable which didn’t help. Other readers might “get it” and find it more enjoyable and I think I may read this again in the future to see if I can make more sense of it but for now I can only give two stars.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for the ARC in return for an honest and unbiased opinion.
Sarah Burton
Sep 09, 2019 rated it it was ok
The story of the break up of a relationship and how the Ruth (the person left behind) deals with it using a shopping list she finds after her Fiance leaves. Other than using the list as the chapter titles the link isn't obvious as you read through the book.
Ruth is a complex person to understand and not very likeable, as a reader it is hard to be sympathetic to her situation.
The end is confusing, you are left unsure as to what has actually happened - if anything.
Aug 28, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: netgalley
I'm afraid I just didn't get this book! The story itself seemed to have no resemblance to the blurb I had read ahead of requesting a copy. I did read on to the end and there were sections and parts of the story that I did enjoy, but it didn't live up my expectations at all.

Thank you to Netgalley for a review copy - I wish I could give it a better review.
Julie Davis
Aug 05, 2019 rated it it was ok
I was really gripped by the opening of this book when Ruth describes how she feels when her relationship breaks down but the rest didn't live up to this.
The sections which were emails from Neil were dreary and didn't add to the story and the ending was just poor.
Not sure what the author was trying to achieve here not felt she was trying g and failing to be clever.
Aug 07, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: did-not-finish
I was waiting for this book to pick up the pace but when I was still begrudgingly turning the pages at the half way point it seemed like it was never coming. Maybe the last half is much better but I’ll never know.
Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC.
Mrs A
Aug 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Ruth is thirty years old and works as a nurse in a care home and her fiancé has just broken up with her leaving her with just their shopping list for the upcoming week.
Through the list we find out who Ruth is, who has helped shape her life and what happens to her now she is alone.
Cyn Dee
Aug 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
At the beginning, I did like the prose..then it got horribly long-winded with not much happening- just a lot of inside monologue. Couldn't relate to the gossipy middle bits. Not sure what to make of the ending. Felt very anti-climatic.
Charlotte Heather
Sep 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Tender and tough in equal measure, a beautiful treasure that gets to the heart.
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