Friday, 27 January 2012

Are we nearly there yet? Book review and giveaway

The term 'Laugh out Loud' is oft overused these days.  It's lost it's meaning.  But in the true sense of the expression, it can be applied to Ben Hatch's book by the bucket-load.



Not only did I laugh, but I laughed til there were tears rolling down my face. Til my sides were aching. Til my other half poked his head round the door and asked "what's going on?".

Are we nearly there yet tells of the journey of Ben, his wife and their two pre-school children, who embark on an epic round Britain trip reviewing child-friendly visitor attractions for a guide book.  There are moments of madness, where I've secretly planned a similar kind of last yahoo before Ruby starts school.  However, one short trip in the car to the supermarket usually brings me back to my senses.

Apart from the obvious hilarity, I warmed to this book instantly because the family were so familiar.  Phoebe is exactly the same age as my own daughter, and has much the same personality.  As the grown ups, Ben and his wife clearly love each other deeply (you'd have to to be with someone 24/7 for 6 months).  The relationship between Ben and his wife Dinah is clearly one of a couple who fit like a comfy worn in pair of slippers.  I mean that in the nicest possible way.  They share a history, they know what each other is thinking, they are capable of insane arguments about the most meaningless issues, and their not averse to a bit of good old-fashioned affectionate name calling - just like me and the old man.

For a male author (sweeping generalisation alert) I was quite un-nerved by Ben's insightful writing about his wife.  After a disagreement and a bit of sulking, he reflects how Dinah does that barely noticeable slightly slower walk to make it look like he's storming off.  How she lowers her voice ever so slightly to make it appear that he's the one shouting.  Hell, I didn't even realise I did that, but I do!

As well as the car journey, Ben embarks on an emotional voyage.  His father falls ill at the beginning of the trip and this leads to a battle of emotions - pride; resentment; rebellion; admiration; love; and regret.  The descriptions of his father on his sick bed moved me to tears as much as the comic scenes.

There are so many passages I could recount for you, but I don't want to spoil the read.  If you've got young kids, had young kids or know young kids, this is a must read.  Seek it out.  Its available on Kindle too at only 99p currently.

I have one paperback copy to give away so read on.

Ben is a big fan of Twitter, so it's great to be able to chat to him there.  After reading this book I feel like I know him.  There's certainly much 'sharing' going on in the novel and i feel as though I know him a little too well.  He was also kind enough to give me an interview...


It was clearly a massive leap of faith to pack up your home and leave your friends and extended family behind for 6 months.  What were you most nervous about before setting off?

Ben: The kids were 3 and 1. Charlie was in nappies, still having formula and we’d set ourselves this incredibly ambitious target of visiting almost 1000 family-friendly attractions. We’d have to stay in a different hotel almost every night and we were visiting every single town and city in the country. To be honest if I’d known we’d be driving 8,000 miles we’d never have gone. Neither my wife nor I slept the night before. I’d have been less scared if we’d going on an Apollo mission. It was also the fact we’d rented out the house. If we hadn’t done that I’m sure we’d have given up. My brother predicted that either my wife or I would come home chopped up in a bin-bag in the roof-box. We did have arguments along the way. We even managed a big one about which type of owl was best – tawny or barn. But I think I was most worried the kids would hate it. But they didn’t. To them it was a great adventure.

I'm often guilty of over-sharing on Twitter and my blog. Hilarious as it was, do you think the toothbrush incident was a step too far? Is nothing sacred?

Ben: It was not in the original manuscript actually. I only included it at the last moment during the rushed editing process. I think if I had included at the outset it would have cut. I knew it was massively embarrassing but I thought it was funny as well, so I included it. For some people it’s a bridge too far on taste grounds. For others it’s their favourite sequence of the book. I don’t have a problem with writing about it because in my mind I have a sort of switch that I flick when I write something compromising. The switch means I can tell myself I didn’t really say that and that nobody really read that. I’m pressing it right now as I’m talking to you. This isn’t happening. We aren’t talking about this. I have no idea what toothbrush you’re not talking about. He stuck it where?.....

Do you think Phoebe and Charlie absorbed any of the history, science and geography of Britain on the trip, or did they learn other life lessons?

Ben: They learned nothing at all as far as I can tell. We imagined before we set off they’d come back so steeped in culture that one of them would probably end up the chairman of the Arts Council or something. We held that viewed up until the night when Phoebe wet herself in the Shakespeare Birthplace Museum, the same day and I lost the key to the roof-box containing Charlie’s nappy changing stuff meaning we had to change him on a bench in the rain outside Anne Hathaway’s cottage using 3 KFC Lemonfresh wipes. If they learnt anything though it was to be good friends with each other. They spent all that time with each other and as a result came to rely on each other’s company. They’re very, very close now. Much closer than other siblings we know with children the same age.


How did the kids settle in back once you got back home?

Ben: Well they don’t like driving much. They hate all long trips. Our daughter has also unexpectedly, or perhaps as defensive measure against future trips, developed car sickness. She vomits now during any journey over 20 miles on any non-straight road. We’ll probably hear about the other affects through their therapists in 20 years time.

I can't wait to catch up on what you've all been up to.  When's the next book out?

Ben: I am in the process of writing it now. Not sure when it’ll be out. But thanks for asking. Next year, I hope. It’s set in France. I need a good title. Any ideas anyone?

You're clearly a big fan of Twitter.  What benefits does it bring you as an author?
Ben: It’s a fantastic tool for authors, I think, because it allows you direct access to your readers. Normally authors meet readers at book signings. That’s a slightly intimidating atmosphere where the author sits at a table in a bookshop and signs. It’s a little hierarchical. You’re sort of setting yourself apart just by being there with your pen poised. On twitter everyone’s equal. People are much more free with their thoughts. There’s no barrier. My favourite book growing up was Catcher in the Rye. In it the main character Holden Caulfied,l a hero of mine as kid, rues the fact that he can’t call up say F Scott Fitzgerald, I think it is, and tell him what great book he’s written. Now you can do that on twitter. Holden Caulfield would definitively have been on twitter.

Finally, I have to ask.  Is your wife really that scared of those creatures that shall remain nameless?

Ben: She is indeed. If anything, as every year goes by she is worse. The other day I was going to follow back someone on twitter. Their twitpic was of three tortoises. Dinah wouldn’t let me follow them back in case she looked over my shoulder and saw the picture. I tried to explain to the person why I couldn’t follow them back. They didn’t understand. The person thought I was crazy and blocked me. Cheloniaphobia. Fear of all tortoises and things that like tortoises ie turtles. If we go anywhere risky – zoos, safari parks, butterfly farms are particular bad – I have to guide her through enclosures while she holds a brochure up to the side of her face I’ve earmarked as the “tortoisey one.” The kids all know about it and warn her if ever they see one. “Mum, close your eyes. My hold out your hand.” I blame my wife for all the strange fears my kids have. My daughter was scared of the moon and steam for a long time and my son until recently was scared of all manikins particularly, for some reason, Victorian ones. He would fasten himself to my leg like a shin-pad whenever he saw one.

Massive thanks to Ben for taking the time to answer my questions, but mostly for writing such a fantastic book.  


EDIT: This competition is now closed and the winner has been notified.


If you'd like to win a copy of the book, simply leave a comment below saying why you'd like to read it.  For an additional entry please tweet "I'm entering @missielizzieb's blog competition to win a copy of Ben Hatch's Are we Nearly There Yet http://bit.ly/wLt65E".  Please leave an additional comment to say you've tweeted and remember to leave a method of contact.

The winner will be chosen at random after 5pm on 06 February 2012.

This is not a sponsored post, all views expressed are my own and the prize is supplied by myself.

78 comments:

  1. Sounds like a very good read. I will be putting it on my wishlist if I'm not the lucky winner :)

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  2. its on my wishlist too running out of a good read

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  3. i could do with a good book to read on my commute to work

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    1. God don't read it on the train, they'll cart you off to the funny farm!! the last time I remember laughing so much was reading Brigit Jones diary when it was still a newspaper column. I used to read that on the train, and I remember laughing so much I was crying. In the end half the carriage were laughing too, just at my laughing! x

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  4. i have tweeted as @ashlallan

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  5. I'd like to read it as I could do with something funny to read. Also I have a 6 year old so yes car journeys can be hard work. @clairew137

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  6. I'd love to read it as it sounds really funny and I need a really good, side-splitting chuckle!
    @maisietoo

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  7. I have tweeted here: https://twitter.com/#!/maisietoo/status/162997256876859392
    @maisietoo

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  8. I haven't read a single book since Amy was born and definitely need a light-hearted and funny book to get back into the groove :)

    @caro_mad x

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  9. I'd love to win and have a good laugh!

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  10. This sounds sooo funny and I really want to read it, as my 3 children, all pre-school ages, make me laugh harder every day, than I ever had before!

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  11. Above Anonymous comment is from me, Leah Sullivan @LSullySullivan on Twitter whoops!

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  12. I loved Bill Bryson's 'Notes from a small island' and followed sections from the book in doing a short tour of the south coast. It sounds like there's some worthy recommendations in Ben's book that I might also be able to follow. @gailaldwin

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  13. I'd love to read this as I always try and find new and interesting places to take my children; I have a few Frommers guides and the Time Out Guide of 1000 Things to Do with your children. I really feel I could relate to this book as sometimes my wish to do interesting things with them seems to result in me becoming totally and utterly stressed out. And besides that your wonderful book review has won me over.

    You can contact me on Twitter @SarahJLCooper if I am lucky enough to win.

    Thanks so much for running xx

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  14. I'd like to read it to prepare me for the family we are starting soon! ;-) And could do with a good laugh! (Can be contacted on staceyguilliatt @ hotmail . co . uk without spaces)

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  15. Have tweeted too! https://twitter.com/#!/86PinkPrincess/status/163369847626022912

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  16. I can vouch for the fact that it is an excellent book as I originally bought and read my own copy, then won a 2nd and gave it to a friend. If I were lucky enough to win a 3rd copy I would pass it on to my sister.

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  17. It sounds superb, really need something to lighten my mood atm

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  18. Sounds really interesting & would keep me engrossed for ages. @ MelJanie on Twitter

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  19. Please can I win? I've read about this elsewhere too and put it on my wishlist. Now you've got me absolutely intrigued and I can't wait to get reading! Some of my writing projects will also lead my two small ones on long journeys in the car, so I'd best be fully prepared.

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  20. I would like to win this because I really need a laugh at the minute, my husband found out last week that he has lost his job :(

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  21. I have also tweeted - @bloomingfox

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  22. I would like to win this book as I could really do with a good proper belly laugh to cheer me up :/

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  23. Hi! Found your post via the LAB showcase. This isn't my usual type of reading and if it hadn't been for your review, I probably wouldn't have considered it. However, as January has been so bleak for me, a bit of laugh out loud reading is exactly what I need!

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  24. I've tweeted as well (@the_last_slayer)

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  25. I have spoken to Ben on Twitter before - lovely chap.
    I'd love to win the book because it's not my usual kind of read and after reading what you have said about it I'm drawn to it!

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  26. I would love to read it, as I devour books and keep running out of things to read. I love all things eclectic and different and would pass this on to someone else once I am finished with it!

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  27. I am reading a very long and (in places) biography at the moment, this is just what I need to cheer me up again!

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  28. I'd love to read this book as it's sounds like a great read. I love to read a good book and tell all my friends about it. The phrase Are we nearly there yet takes me back to my own family journeys as a child. Will tweet about it too....@serendipity1979

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  29. Have tweeted & would love to win

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  30. I would like to read this as I need cheering up and it sounds like it would make me giggle!

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  31. Recently I have had little cause to laugh so I am hoping I might win this and remember how to laugh again

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  32. I would love to read this to my daughter as she loves going to bed listening to the cd of Are we nearly there yet?

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  33. Sounds hilarious. Would love a giggle.

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  34. this looks fab id love 2 win this 2 take on holiday with me! ive tweeted as @kayzlou x

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  35. I would like to read this as it is something i wouldn't normally choose for myself but i think i would really enjoy it! @mrsegg1

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  36. Also tweeted @mrsegg1

    https://twitter.com/#!/mrsegg1/status/166122588987338752

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  37. It sounds hilarious & something we'll start to experience as our son gets older!

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  38. Tweeted the message @Isis1981uk

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  39. Love 2 laugh n this sounds like a giggle 4 children and bigger children (us daft adults) 2 enjoy 2getha xx @bezzzzza

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  40. I'd love to win this book as I've heard nothing but fabulous reviews about how funny it is! I'll be making a long journey with my children soon, so maybe I should read this to prepare me! This book is certainly on my 'to-read' list! :-)

    Twitter name @Bookworm_Em

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  41. I have also tweeted @Bookworm_Em :-)

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  42. I'd love to read it as I love reading travel books and as someone who's been on lots of family car trips, I know how tough it is!

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  43. It sounds like a very useful read.

    @00annabellee00

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  44. I have tweeted as @00annabellee00

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  45. I'd love to win so I can assure myself that everyone's family is as mad as mine :)

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  46. I'd love to read this as its been reccomended to me as a great read and with 2 young ones can only think it will be like us. I've also tweeted @clareo122

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  47. i'd love to win this book as i've read the reviews of it and it looks brilliant, i have a 4 year old and one year old and always find myself in funny situations when out and about in supposed family friendly places so i'd love to read this and see where they found brilliant so that we as a family could also visit! :-) 87_clairew

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  48. Because I like learning more about the country particularly the history.

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  49. Have tweeted the message! - @kevinseandooley

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  50. looks a great read- my type of book

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  51. i love a good laught so this book sounds right up my street

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  52. i have also tweeted
    @zeniebeenie

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  53. Sounds really good, maybe somewhat like Outnumbered in book form!
    @flamingice48

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  54. Aww this sounds lovely! I'd like to read it as I could do with a good laugh after reading some quite depressing novels lately! :)

    @Laura_Cookies

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  55. I have tweeted! :)
    https://twitter.com/#!/Laura_Cookies/status/166411078165741568

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  56. sounds like a fab book, I was laughing already when I read about him being unable to follow someone on twitter because of the tortoise picture :-) Although if his wife is really that scared it's cruel to make laugh (but sometimes you just can't help it!) @piperanddaisy

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  57. This sounds like a fantastic read, I'd love to read it. Looks like it would be really fun and funny!

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  58. Also tweeted:
    https://twitter.com/#!/nc099/status/166528013524148224

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  59. It sounds like a great read. Laughter is a fantastic medicine, so it would be great to have a really good laugh in my nights of not being able to sleep, far better to have a laugh than to get frustrated thats for sure!

    hannahlw85@hotmail.com

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  60. Looks like a fantastic book. I've recently got married, and i'm sure kids will be on the agenda soon. It will be great to have a chuckle at this book!

    Beckie Lee (nee Wass)
    rebecca.wass@yahoo.co.uk

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  61. looks like a great book would love to read :)
    sarah clegg on fb
    sarahclegg2 on twitter xx

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  62. tweeted name of sarahclegg2 :)

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  63. sounds g00d -would like a good book to read :)

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  64. I'd love to read this as Iove to read, especially travel books :)

    Tweeted - @samanthawesley

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  65. I was just this morning wondering what I could spend my Kindle birthday gift certificate on. This sounds like a fab book!

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