Take a Chance
Are you a good sister? AbbaFab, the hugely popular Abba tribute band, are in trouble. Gemma Redden, aka Agnetha, has just broken her ankle and finding a new singer to fill her white platform boots at such late notice isn’t going to be easy. Desperate times call for desperate measures and the youngest Redden sister, Mia, reluctantly agrees to don the blonde wig and sky-blue hot pants. For Mia, a shy piano teacher who has felt third best all her life, this is her big chance to prove herself to her two big sisters, Wendy and Gemma.
Meanwhile, Mia’s oldest friend, Alva Ryan, is having a life crisis of her own. Her previously devoted boyfriend, Sean, has just walked out, and this time he’s not coming back. Things come to a head when Wendy has a terrible accident. Because Wendy has been keeping a secret; a secret that could blow the band apart and devastate the close-knit Redden sisters. But secrets have a way of coming out when you least expect them to. And sometimes even the best of sisters gets it horribly wrong.
Background to the Book (Website Exclusive)
This book was influenced by two things: being the eldest of three sisters and my enduring love for Abba. I was lucky enough to know people who run a real life Abba tribute band and spoke to them about their experiences for this book, which was enormous fun. I even wore an Abba costume at the launch! Of all the Abba members, Frida has always been my favourite. This is an article I wrote about her for the Sunday Tribune.
My Hero, Anni-Frid Lyngstad, ‘Frida’ When I was seven I longed to be Agnetha Faltskog, the glamorous blonde in the Swedish supergroup, Abba. I had my little heart set on it. In 1974 when Abba won the Eurovision with ‘Waterloo’ I was all of five years old and easily impressed by her sparkly blue outfit, her flaxen hair and her gentle Mona Lisa smile that displayed that tiny gap between her two front teeth. After all, I had the same gappy teeth, the same blonde hair - it was destiny. We belonged together. It was only last year when I started researching the band for my novel, Take a Chance (about three sisters who run an Irish Abba Tribute band) that I realised my childhood loyalty was misplaced. It was Frida, the thinking girl’s chanteuse, who deserved my admiration. Frida, aka Anni-Frid Lyngstad, was born in 1945 in a small village in Norway called Ballangen; the result of a love affair between her mother, Synni and a German non-commissioned officer, Alfred Haase. Synni was warned repeatedly about getting involved with an enemy solider, but refused to listen and the relationship ended in tears: the war ended and Alfred returned to Germany. To his wife. He never told Synni he was married; Synni never admitted she was pregnant. When Frida was born, Synni was insulted and spat at in the street for having a ‘German’ baby. Eventually Synni decided she’d had enough - she found work in Sweden, bringing Frida and her mother with her. But tragically after a few hard months, Synni took ill and died. She was only twenty-one. From then on Frida was brought up by her grandmother, Angy. Frida was already a successful singer long before she joined Abba. At thirteen she joined her first band as a professional singer, playing in bars and venues all over Sweden. At eighteen she married her first husband, Ragnar Frediksson and they had two children, Hans and Lise-Lotte. But in 1969 she left her husband and children and moved near Stockholm to devote herself completely to her music. ‘I was violently criticised at the time,’ she said. ‘People were very cruel; no one could have imagined how much this decision broke my heart. In public I always tried to hide my pain. My smile concealed a deep sadness.’ And I think it’s this sadness that made her such an amazing singer. Frida’s better-known second marriage, to Benny from the band (the one with the beard) also sadly ended in divorce. I can’t listen to Knowing You, Knowing Me, the song about the break up of a marriage, and one of Abba’s finest hours in my opinion, without thinking of Frida’s broken marriages and ‘lost’ children. The line ‘in this old familiar room, children would play,’ sends shivers down my spine. It can’t have been easy for Frida. Agnetha was, and still remains the most popular individual member of Abba. With her long blonde hair and her infamous bottom, the J-Lo bum of its day, Agnetha was the crowd pleaser, the girl everyone, myself included, wanted to be. But Frida played her part in the band with grace and good humour. Interviewing my female friends and family for this piece I wasn’t surprised to find that Dancing Queen is by far their most popular Abba track. Dancing Queen is more than just a song to most women; it’s a good time anthem, an I Will Survive for the hen night, the 21st or the wedding. In commercial terms, it’s also Abba’s most popular track. And for good reason. It never fails to lift my spirits and I’m am indoctrinating my young daughter, Amy, into its delights at an early age as we dance around the kitchen together, singing into hair brushes. After years in the limelight, Abba split up, leaving fans all over the world heartbroken. Frida went on to marry Prince Ruzzo Reuss von Plauen and became Princess Frida, not that she ever used the title. No less than she deserved. And she was reunited with her children. But it was all to end in tragedy. Frida’s daughter, Lise-Lotte was killed in a car crash in 1998 and in 1999 Prince Ruzzo died of cancer. But yet again, Frida picked herself up and got on with her life. She said at the time, ‘I’ve realised that I’m a very strong woman.’ No kidding. In 1999 Mamma Mia opened in London, co-incidentally the 25th anniversary of Abba’s ‘Waterloo’ Eurovision victory. Frida attended the North American premiere in Toronto, her life in a strange way coming full circle. Who would have thought that this teenage mother from a difficult background would one day become a real live Princess and, in my eyes, the ultimate Dancing Queen? Frida, I salute you.
Top marks again to Ms Webb for cheekily entertaining those of us who grew up on a social diet of Bjorn Again. Irish Independent
Love triangles, challenges to friendship and sisterly rows . . . Webb catapults us towards the grand finale - the revelation of big sister Wendy’s dark secret. Irish Independent
Sarah Webb is just getting better and better with every book. Woman’s Way
A compulsive and entertaining read. Heat Magazine