All Change Please by Danielle West describes for you in the title the main premise of the novel.
The novel is focused on the lives of four friends. All in their late twenties, one of them
has recently died. Although the reader isn’t told how Laura died, we get the sense that it
was in an accident or something equally unexpected. No one, including her husband
and three friends, expected Laura to die and die so young.
Ophelia, Kat and Elise are Laura’s friends that are left to make sense of her loss. Each
handles the death in a different manner but in the same vein, they all examine their lives
and find them wanting. None of the three has any family that they can count on to be
there for them.
Ophelia is at a safe marketing job which doesn’t require any effort from her. She is not
committed to this job other than to receiving the paycheck. She has had multiple
relationships with selfish men and is at present alone. She prefers this to being in a
relationship where she feels she is being mistreated and even so, dependent on the
Kat is married. Ian seems a perfect husband at first, solicitous of Kat’s sorrow over
Laura’s loss. He does comfort her and protects her from any more pain. Unfortunately
his selfish nature comes to the forefront when they visit his parents. Ian’s mother and
father are not satisfied with Kat as a daughter-in-law and the mother, in particular, does
everything possible to make Kat uncomfortable. Ian does not protect Kat against his
mother or father she is left to fend for herself. Given that she is the sole breadwinner in
the house while Ian chases a theater career and plays video games, she has to fend
for herself too much.
Elise is an artist also without any support from her very wealthy parents. They expected
Elise to either be a solicitor or marry one. Immediately. Elise is a very talented artist and
yet her parents see what she does as fruitless and her mother is always trying to fix her
up with men.
Elise lives in a flat she owns and rents out rooms to friends. James, a writer, is at home
always and is very supportive of Elise. Her deep depression after the death of Laura
leaves her under the covers in a room covered in food wrappers and dirty clothes.
Luckily she is discovered in this state by Kat. Kat cleans up the room and forces Elise to
go eat something outside of her room. She practically has to drag Elise out of the
house, but once out Elise starts to get herself back.
These three friends support each other, being the family each of them needs but does
not have. Kat was put into care in America as a teenager. Ophelia left her abusive father
at the very first opportunity and moved to London. Elise’s parents and siblings just don’t
get Elise and spend no time trying.
Ophelia and Kat are both Americans living in London. Elise is a native of England. Kat
and Ophelia seem to be a bit disconnected from London culture. Elise fits in until she is
faced with Christmas at her parents’ home and flees to Boston to be with Ophelia and
Kat for the holidays.
The title “All Change Please” is what is said when a train coming into a metro station is
terminating at that station. All the passengers must change trains or leave at that
station. An excellent description of how the three friends are trying to find a way to
eliminate the boredom and mediocrity of their lives and are spurred on by Laura’s death.
They each question whether there is an afterlife and if Laura felt she had accomplished
anything before her death at the age of 27. None of them is satisfied with their life and
each of them assimilates the impetus to change in her own way. The support they have
for each other makes their changes easier, but not easy.
Not being a reader of contemporary fiction, I was afraid that I would not like this novel.
The soul-searching, tear-producing angst experienced by these three friends is so
potently explained by Ms. West that I was drawn into the book within the first 50 pages.
I couldn’t wait to get back to the book to see what the girls were up to and how each of
them would be able to contend with the difficult changes in their lives.
I highly recommend this book. It is not only uplifting to read but will also prompt some
soul-searching on the reader’s part. A great interactive experience is to be had with All