The Unsinkable Greta James by Jennifer E. Smith | Book Review and Blog Blast

The Unsinkable Greta James by Jennifer E. Smith 
Published: 1st March 2022 by Quercus Books

I received a copy of this e-book from the publisher via NetGalley. This in no way affects my review.


An indie musician reeling from tragedy reconnects with her estranged father on a week-long cruise in this tale of grief, fame, and love from bestselling author Jennifer E. Smith.

Greta James's meteoric rise to indie stardom was hard-won. Before she graced magazine covers and sold out venues, she spent her girlhood strumming her guitar in the family garage. Her first fan was her mother, Helen, whose face shone bright in the dusty downtown bars where she got her start. But not everyone encouraged Greta to follow her dreams. While many daydream about a crowd chanting their name, her father, Conrad, sees only a precarious life ahead for his daughter.

Greta has spent her life trying to prove him wrong. But three months after Helen's sudden death, and weeks before the launch of her high-stakes sophomore album, Greta has an onstage meltdown that goes viral. Attempting to outrun the humiliation and heartbreak, she reluctantly agrees to accompany her father on a week-long Alaskan cruise, the very one that her parents had booked to celebrate their fortieth anniversary.

This could be the James family's last chance to heal old wounds, and will prove to be a voyage of discovery for them, as well as for Ben Wilder, a historian also struggling with a major upheaval in his life. Ben is on board to lecture about Jack London's The Call of the Wild, the adventure story Greta's mother adored, and he captures Greta's attention after her streak of dating hanger-ons. As Greta works to build up her confidence and heal, and Ben confronts his uncertain future, they must rely on one another to make sense of life’s difficult choices. In the end, Greta must make the most challenging decision of all: to listen to the song within her or make peace with those who love her.


Warning - potential spoilers!

When I heard that Jennifer E. Smith was coming out with her adult debut, I knew I had to read it! From being such a staple YA author when I was a teenager, it's nice to be going through this change together.

I love reading about different family dynamics, and an older father-daughter one is not one I come across often. Their relationship rang true for me in many ways, and I know it would be very relatable to many others too. It was heartwarming to see their relationship grow slowly but surely, especially in using their mutual grief as something to bond over. The interactions between Greta and her dad were so fraught with emotion and tension at times that it was brutal but also beautiful to read, especially on the glacier excursion. To see the gradual change in Greta's dad, from initially still seeing her as a stubborn child to gaining respect for her career choice and genuine talent was great to read too.

At first I wasn't a massive fan of the romance in this, as it read all a bit too convenient. It seemed as though the only two age-appropriate characters gravitated towards each other on the cruise ship, despite having nothing in common. However, I appreciated that it was mostly acknowledged as a holiday fling and a bit of escapism for both of them and didn't end in a convenient happy-ever-after. Instead, it was realistic and messy and I grew to like the two of them together much more, especially the way that they chose to keep in touch with one another.

I found myself getting so emotional over Greta's reminiscing of her mum, but it was very powerful reading her journey of grieving and growing. The memories she has of her mum showed just how much of a positive force she was in Greta's life, but also are a testament to how she raised Greta to be so strong and able to live life without her.

The highlight for me has to be the ending of the book, as it came together as a very full-circle moment, particularly concerning Greta's parents. The writing here felt very powerful, and I couldn't help but be moved by Smith and her words. I appreciated the fact that this was more of a book about growth and getting through hard times than focusing on the romance element. I will definitely be on the look out for Jennifer's next adult novel!


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