The Story of Our Lives

by Helen Warner

Relationship Stories Family Drama Books with reviews by our Reader Review Panel eBooks of the Month Humorous fiction

LoveReading Expert Review of The Story of Our Lives

A dynamic, dramatic, and deliciously entertaining tale exposing friendship flaws, secrets and lies. Sophie, Emily, Amy, and Melissa go away for a weekend break once a year, and we see how their lives change for both better and worse between 1997 and 2012. These are women who make mistakes, occasionally get it wrong as well as right, and rely on their friends for advice, help, and love. Helen Warner allows direct access to the holidays, the rest of the year remains either hidden or briefly reviewed, ensuring the story just whizzes along. The movement through the years allows you to quickly form a relationship with these women, it also raises questions, and suspicions. While I found myself occasionally tutting and frustrated, I also celebrated, smiled and laughed, and then in the next moment my heart ached for them. ‘The Story of Our Lives’ is so readable, it beckons you in, and then gathers you up in an intimate, weaving dance of friendship… what a fascinating, lovely read this is.

Liz Robinson

The Story of Our Lives Synopsis

'A fascinating exploration of friendship. Compelling, twisty, emotional and believable - I loved it.' Sarah Morgan Four friends. Twenty years. One powerful secret. Everyone remembers where they were on 31st August 1997, the day Princess Diana died. Sophie, Emily, Amy and Melissa certainly do -- a beautiful cottage in Southwold, at the start of an annual tradition to have a weekend away together. Every year since, the four best friends have come back together. But over time the changes in their lives have led them down very different paths. And it's when those paths collide that the secrets they've been keeping come tumbling out. One Day meets Big Little Lies in this unputdownable read about four friends, one long-buried secret and the histories we all share.

About This Edition

ISBN: 9780008202675
Publication date: 12th July 2018
Author: Helen Warner
Publisher: HQ an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 400 pages
Primary Genre Family Drama
Other Genres:
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The Story of Our Lives Reader Reviews

In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title.

A delightful and uplifting read which is likely to have its readers reflecting on their own friendships.

How would we survive without friends for support? The Story of Our Lives follows four women; Sophie, Melissa, Emily and Amy over twenty years in short bursts an unusual structure that gives an insight into the momentous occasions that we all encounter during our lives.

The first time we meet the friends is on their weekend break in Southwold in August 1997 following the death of Princess Diana. Sophie is in a long-term relationship with someone she met at university, wondering perhaps if she settled down too soon. Melissa is searching for something, Emily is still slightly defensive about being a single mother to Jack and Amy revels in cooking up sumptuous dishes for them all.

By the time we catch up with the four in Whitstable in 1998, the year Bill Clinton admitted to having relations with Monica Lewinsky, secrets being shared that will remain within the tight circle that will have repercussions down the line.

Inevitably, as in real-life, over the twenty years the friendship will be tested at times providing the reader with moments of tension as the women struggle to come to terms with the consequences.

An emotional read that will see each of the women face difficulties as well as moments of joy and their friends reaction to each of these significant moments.

Cleo Bannister

A light easy read charting the lives of four young women, close friends since their university days. Although close, they all have secrets from each other, which are gradually revealed.

This book charts the lives of four young women over a period of 15 years.  They have been close friends since their university days and meet up for weekends together every so often.  Each of these events is a new section of the book, and we get to learn, via flashbacks, how their lives have progressed in the intervening period.   Although it’s a light, easy read, it does touch on some serious topics, and I thought it was well written, but overall it was a bit too ‘frothy’ for my taste.  It’s certainly gender specific – I can’t imagine any man I know reading and enjoying this.

Having said all that, I did find myself drawn into the story and stayed up rather late one night to finish it – testament to the good writing style I think.

Doreen McKeown

The idea of four friends meeting up for an annual girly week-end is simple enough, but works wonderfully well. Linking chapters with a newsflash from the time is a stroke of genius.

They say that the best ideas are the simple ones and this book shows how true this is. The idea, of four friends from University meeting up for an annual girly weekend is simple enough, but works wonderfully well.  Linking the chapters with a newsflash from the time is a stroke of genius and brings the reader right into the time-scale, even though, strangely, the characters make no reference to even the most memorable events (I’m thinking 9/11).

I enjoyed catching up with the girl’s lives chapter by chapter, and although I had guessed ‘the secret’ from quite early in the book, I found it even more intriguing to discover how the author would negotiate the twists and turns without giving the game away.  All I can say is, well done Helen Warner, and thank you for a really enjoyable read.

Kathy Martin

A slow burning, but a book worth sticking with. An evolving and increasingly emotional read. A perfect novel to curl up with.

After the first few pages I thought this would be an easy light book, a fun, but somewhat vacuous read but with little substance. Would we discover if Sophie really had hurt her toe on the flower pot and what would Amy cook for supper, who was the most attractive of the 4, seemed to be the only story lines, and did I really care about the characters anyway? However as the book progressed so did my interest. With each annual holiday the characters of the 4 friends developed and the interaction between them evolved and changed. I started to care, and the book finally became a page turner. I wanted to know what would happen to them and their spouses and children. By the time the plots started to overlap and intertwine, the characters had become people and the story came alive. I think this book was particularly poignant as the national events meant something as the four women in the story were of a similar age to me, and like them, the news headlines also struck a chord with me, making it more poignant. By the final wedding and holiday, I was hooked.

Rosie Watch

A moving exploration of female friendship through both the good times and the bad, a very absorbing read.

This novel is centred around the lives of a group of friends who meet up for an annual weekend away together over a period of fifteen years. The plot moves along quickly and Helen cleverly highlights that time has passed by noting dates of key news items as a headline before each reunion. The ups and downs of female friendship are explored in a sensitive way and issues of when to challenge, support, control and forgive a friend are explored. Although the friends are close, they do not share everything and secrets they have been keeping from one another are gradually revealed. One of these secrets came as a genuine surprise to me!

This is a great book to curl up to on the sofa on a cold winter's day or to take on a Summer holiday. 

Susan Coleman

A bit too bland for me, but a light, easy read about the power and endurance of friendship through life.

This follows four university friends who meet up every year for twenty years. Sophie, Amy, Melissa and Emily do all they can to ensure that their friendships lasts no matter what life throws at them. Through single motherhood, addiction, affairs, abuse and children, they stick together. 

I liked the concept of their summer trips being the way in which you would catch up on what had happened to each of them in the previous year, but it seemed to go too fast. There was enough detail in the reminiscence to move the plot along, but never quite enough to make the characters really come to light. All of the trials of life they were going to face seemed quite obvious very early on, especially the "big secret", which was easily guessed when it was first alluded to at the very start. The reveal wasn't a surprise at all and everything was neatly solved. A light hearted read but sadly not compelling enough for me and all a bit too obvious and easily resolved.

Sarah Jones

A lovely tale of the intertwined lives of four friends, which takes an unexpected turn when the secret that has lain between them for years is finally revealed - and it's not what the reader expected!

This book had so many emotions packed into it! Four very different women, close friends for years, all bound together by one secret - but only one of them knows the truth.... And the reader is led to believe that they are in on this secret too!

I found it a very enjoyable read, and the characters were very real. The twist at the end was brilliant! I would recommend this book to anybody! 


A traditional chick-lit book, filled with characters that make you feel like you're part of the group. There's nothing 'new' about this book, but that's what makes it a good read - it feels familiar.

Written across a number of years, and from the view point for the different characters it really keeps you interested. As with all chick-lit, there's the usual characters in the friendship group, and the usual tension and jealous streaks rear their heads. 

A very lighthearted book, even the tougher subjects that are covered are done so in a way that doesn't bring the book down from it's bubbly good nature, and obviously contribute to the happy ending!

I really enjoyed this book for what it is - of course at times I wanted it to be a bit more in depth and 'real', but actually then it wouldn't have been half as enjoyable. A great choice for the beach or a long flight!

Suzanne Beney

The Story of Our Lives by Helen Warner is an easy to read, page turner of a book! Not a genre I usually read but having received this novel to review I gave it a go and was pleasantly surprised.

Based around four friends over a twenty year period, the chapters begin with dates in history that most people would remember.

A moving story about four very different people with the dramas going on in their lives and how they intertwine with each other and their families. They meet up once a year approximately and the events in their lives are discussed and dissected....all apart from one, who is the baby's father? Their time away always seems to be at a very luxurious venue and I wonder how they would afford that in the real world. Some more serious topics are covered such as drug dependency and domestic abuse which made the story more real. All in all I enjoyed the read and stayed up late a few nights to continue reading! As a bonus I also liked the cover design, which is something that can be hit or miss these days it seems.

Glenda Worth

Helen Warner's story includes four friends from university, none of whom has a perfect life, which makes it very believable. You're lulled into thinking that the ending could be predicted - it can't!

I really enjoyed this book of four friends who meet at university and share a holiday together each year. The story has been thoughtfully crafted, so that the characters and their storylines feel real and probable. It shows their ups and downs and reflects marriage and life as gifts that have to be worked very hard at. None of the girls are perfect and all have skeletons in their closets, again adding realism to the story. A really good read.

Lesley Hart

A fantastic story of friendship and love. An enjoyable read going on the journey with these four friends, through the changes of life and secrets and lies that are revealed along the way.

I really enjoyed this story about four friends Sophie, Emily, Amy and Melissa and their lives dating from 1997 to 2012. Each chapter covers a year in their lives as they struggle through life's challenges and secrets and lies that are revealed.  Can their friendship survive? I loved this story and all the characters. It was really well written and I look forward to reading more from this author. 

Kathryn Whitfield

But there is a big secret swirling behind the facade and when a truly terrible event brings this to the surface, the survival of the four's relationship is dependent on their varying reactions to the revelation.

The idea of this novel is attractive, spanning 20 years of friendship between four friends facing different life choices and lifestyles.  Amy, Melissa, Emily and Sophie meet every year for a weekend away - a demonstration and celebration of the strength of their friendship.

Helen Warner keeps us focused on the annual meeting by linking these to a significant event in history beginning with the death of Princess Diana in 1997.  All four friends have their ups and downs at work, with relationships and children and all four support each other through these with care, even tough love at times.

Some have high powered jobs in the media and the development of reality TV programmes throughout two decades also neatly links to the lives of the four women.

At the beginning of the book we see Sophie happily married and pregnant and unsure about becoming a mother; later we follow Amy's 'perfect' marriage turning into a hellish and abusive prison.  Bold and confident Melissa's gradual fall into drink and drugs is difficult for the others to deal with and Emily, a single mother since college seemingly has less in common than the rest of them.

But there is a big secret swirling behind the facade and when a truly terrible event brings this to the surface, the survival of the four's relationship is dependent on their varying reactions to the revelation.

A good easy read about the ups and downs of women's relationships and the help and support that comes from these.


Dana Captainino

A drag along read that puts you at the centre of some strong female characters and their relationships.

A group of women who met at University remain close and support each other throughout the almost two-decade time span of this novel. Once a year they meet for a weekend away at a different destination. 

This is a well-written example of its genre. It’s engaging and interesting. It centres on four believable and well-drawn female characters each with a different persona, dealing with some powerful issues along the way. The large time span passes succinctly. There is nicely written dialogue and some intense situations. Its very readable and drags the reader in and along quickly.

OK, the story might be a little predictable, but it doesn’t matter because it’s an enjoyable journey and an enjoyable read. 

Lorraine Blencoe

Perfect to pack in your suitcase and relax with whilst on holiday, 'The Story of Our Lives' is an intriguing, unputdownable, easy to read novel.

Amy, Emily, Melissa and Sophie have been loyal friends since meeting at university, meeting up each year to share time, fun and confidences. As their lives move on and develop in diverse ways, issues relating to the past gradually unfold, producing links that they would never have imagined. Can their close friendship survive?

I was especially drawn to this novel as I meet up each year with friends I was at teacher training college with in the seventies so was able to identify with the way in which deep friendships develop over time.

Warner introduces her characters to the reader very skillfully in the opening chapters so that one has a really vivid, visual image of each of them as events in the plot slowly unfurl. 

I particularly like the way in which she links their meet ups to historical events as it aids the passage of time in quite a natural way. She uses cliffhangers to sustain our interest and several twists where I was left guessing as to the outcome; this worked especially well in the closing chapter.

It is a comfortable, easy read type of novel which would lend itself beautifully to a film. Although a little lightweight in comparison with my usual genre, I enjoyed reading it and will search out her other novels.

Val Rowe

I recommend this to all who enjoy stories about female bonds and lifelong friendships even through adversity.

This is the soul warming story of four friends; Amy , Melissa, Sophie , and Emily told over 20 years of their friendship and told from their various perspectives. I loved these characters , each one is very different but somehow combined they make an incredibly strong and fiercely supportive group of women that anyone would want to have as friends . The story takes us on a journey through the ups and downs of these women’s lives  marriage , babies, relationships and work and gives a few twists and turns along the way . I  recommend this to all who enjoy stories about female bonds and lifelong friendships even through adversity.

Edel Waugh

An easy-to-read book that ultimately proves to be uplifting.

A heart-warming story tracing the ups and downs of the friendship between 4 women over a 20 year period.

I liked the way headlines/key events were used to delineate each of their annual get-together.

It was easy to read and enjoyable though I had somehow expected it to be a bit more substantial.


Female friendship - you love each other, you fall out, you make up - your best friends. A wonderful read.

I loved this book from the moment I picked it up. Sometimes I guessed what was about to happen, but that didn't ruin it for me.

It's the story of four women, their daily lives and their catch-up trip away once every year.  They look forward to them, almost live for them. There is some envy around the lives the others have, but they still stick together. 

Of course, there is one big secret which when it comes out, could tear this wonderful friendship apart.  What is it - well, get the book, read and enjoy. 

Alison Bisping

It was an extremely easy book to read, well written, warmly intriguing and ever so enjoyable.

Isn't it so annoying when work gets in the way of you wanting to romp your way through a new novel that you just don't want to put down ?! I just loved this book, a great story about four female friends who have known each other since college days, their friendships and love lives and I found myself trying to remember what I had been doing too in each of the years highlighted as the book unfolded. Each female's story comes through in equal parts although of the four I somehow regarded Sophie as the main character throughout. I kept telling myself to put it down and go to sleep (so I could actually get up for work the next day !) but then the next chapter would just grabbed your attention.......! It was an extremely easy book to read, well written, warmly intriguing and ever so enjoyable. I did however 'guess' the secret quite early on in the book, I felt it was quite 'obvious' in a way so I found myself just waiting and wondering how it all would be revealed.  I'll certainly be passing this one on to my mum and friends to read and I'll be looking out for other books by this author in the future.


Judith Waring

A heart warming tale of love and friendship in the face of everyday adversity. You can relate to the characters and feel their emotions with them.

This book follows the lives of four best friends who are moving through adulthood and the challenges that accompany that. Each woman has her own distinct character meaning you're likely to relate to at least one of them and their individual situations. The book is cleverly underpinned with real life moments allowing you to picture the changing timeline of their lives. I found the story engaging and often uplifting. It dealt with real life situations which I felt made the characters much more believable. An enjoyable read.

Julie Watkin

I loved this book.

I loved this book. The author manages to really develop the character of the women, so your invested in them all the way through. They each have individual struggles, this only adds more depth to the story. They all also have their secrets but one particular that could change all their lives! I found myself really wanting a friendship like these ladies and that goes to show how brilliantly they were described. I could imagine each scene and their characters came alive for me.  I really enjoy time spanning books and she manages to do this so smoothly, you get years with this group of friends and only want more.


Helen Warner Press Reviews

`A moving and compelling journey through the highs and lows of female friendship - just fabulous!  Sharon Osbourne

Other editions of this book

ISBN: 9780008202675
Publication date: 12/07/2018
Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9780008202682
Publication date: 08/02/2018
Format: Hardback

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About Helen Warner

Helen Warner was Head of Daytime for Channel 4, where she was responsible for shows such as Come Dine With Me and Deal Or No Deal. Previously she worked for ITV where she launched the daytime talkshow Loose Women and was editor of This Morning. She lives in East Anglia with her husband and their two children. RSVP is her first novel.

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