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Shelf Life

2.98  ·  Rating details ·  249 ratings  ·  67 reviews
'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 Life is the exquisite, heart-wrenching story of a woman rebuilding
Paperback, 288 pages
Published January 9th 2020 by Black Swan
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Average rating 2.98  · 
Rating details
 ·  249 ratings  ·  67 reviews

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Oct 24, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc
I don’t know if I have read a book lately with a blurb this accurate that nonetheless completely failed to give an indication what the book will be like. On the surface it’s correct; yes Ruth has just been left by her boyfriend of ten years and has to navigate her life and yes the story is told by way of the shopping list he left behind – but it also something else entirely. Told in varies formats (stream-of-consciousness in the present, a series of text messages in the past, mixing more ...more
Caroline Kerdouci
Aug 09, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Aug 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Aug 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelf Life is a fascinating novel that follows Ruth who is coming to terms with her fiance breaking up with her. She finds a shopping list that is the only thing left of him in their home and the novel then is told in chapters headed by each item on the list.

I loved this book. I found it was quite a meandering novel and it begged to be read slowly. I’m naturally a fast reader but I really enjoyed the fact that this book made me slow down, it made me want to take it all in and to take time to
Susie Anderson
Sep 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Roman Clodia
The break-up plot is such a staple of chick-lit/rom-coms that it's refreshing to see it treated with a level of seriousness here. That said, this book is somewhat different from the blurb: the shopping list, for example, is no more than chapter titles, and the structure is that familiar fragmented one switching from character to character with emails and texts. Sometimes this works well: Neil's emails, for example, tell us something important about him and his relationship with Ruth that never ...more
Ashwini Abhyankar
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 grocery shopping. We
Aug 28, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 shopping list, the items on
Nicola Whyte
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rosalind Bryden
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 last shopping
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
Novels about disaffected young(ish) women are usually my thing but this didn’t really do a lot for me. Use of a shopping list as chapter titles with nothing really tying them to the narrative felt like an affectation and I found Ruth to be quite bland. It’s not a bad book (although the dream sequences almost tip it that way) but falls way short of its contemporaries.
Jan 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed the different ways the author told the story, as there were chapters from the point of view of different characters, and chapters that were text or email exchanges. I felt that the emotions of the characters were well portrayed and believable.
Charlie Watkins
Not terrible, not brilliant. Probably won't remember it in three months time
Nicola Smith
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 between the food
Anita Baião
Sep 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Ronnie Turner
Sep 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Jo Barton
Aug 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Corinne Sparks
Jul 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 years
Cheryl M-M
Aug 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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-term
Joanne Cartwright
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/dreaming,
Rosemary M
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
Katie Mather
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This book will delight Sally Rooney fans. Shelf Life, a story of a woman trying to rebuild her life after a break up from her boyfriend. Ruth is left behind in the flat, her boyfriend taking all of his belongings. She no longer feels like herself, she is alone, abandoned - he anchored her to life and all he left was a shopping list. Using that shopping list as chapter headings, she slowly starts to build her life - trying to be more present at her care home job, making an effort with the ...more
A.J. Sefton
A woman goes through a break-up via the shopping list pinned to her fridge. Unusual concept.
The title of each chapter is one of the items on the list. Mainly food but always something ordinary and mundane. The connection is equally ordinary and mundane.

Narrated by the woman in the majority of chapters, interspersed with a couple from the ex-boyfriend, friend and a bunch of people referred to as the 'Girls', the story flits from schooldays internet banter to the early days of the relationship to
Jan 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed the first 90% of this, but the ending was a real let down.

For the most part it's a well-paced, engaging read, which follows the fragile, introverted protagonist Ruth Beadle in the aftermath of the breakdown of her long-term relationship. Through a series of first-person accounts, diary entries, emails, snippets of text, and dreams, the reader learns about Ruth's past, that her ex (Neil) is frankly a massive dick, about her disordered eating and odd relationship with her mother,
Sep 10, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 in time and
Lara Alamad
Jan 24, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Was going to DNF, but trudged miserably on, like someone walking to the shops in the rain to buy toilet roll. An appropriate simile for this book since it is meant to be loosely structured around a shopping list.

Despite all the fawning reviews, this is yet another Eleanor Oliphant type novel about a damaged individual making their way in a world that perplexes them. The issue with such novels is that why would you want to spend several hours in the company of an character who doesn't like
Aug 25, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc
(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 accidental discovery that
Ily Crysel
Dec 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelf Life is a beautifully written novel that talks about a breakup, and its consequences in the protagonists life.
It seems like a simple and light read, but it isn't anything like that, especially the ending, which really surprised me.
Although there is no definite ending to this book, the breakup is just the event that puts the whole novel in motion: it deeply affects the protagonist, but this book is about so much more.

I did not love when the author talks about Ruth's dreams, I found it
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