Monday, 7 February 2011

This Charming Man by Marian Keyes

Charming politican Paddy De Courcy is finally getting married.  This announcement throws several women into turmoil as Paddy isn't all he first appears.  The book charts the history of Lola, Grace, Marnie and Alicia's relationship with him and how he affected their lives.  All four women write from their divergent viewpoints.
Lola is a dippy stylist who thought she'd met the love of her life.  When she finds out about his forthcoming wedding to Alicia, she goes into meltdown and is convinced by her band of devoted friends to drop out and recover in a small cottage in a village filled with Irish stereotypes (a bit like the old TV show Ballykissangel).  Here she gets a fling with a surfer dude and has her Friday nights taken over by a bunch of cross-dressers.  As she grows used to life without Paddy she starts to remember what her relationship was really about and that love wasn't what kept her bound to him.
Grace is a journalist with an odd family, a beloved aging Auntie with cancer, a fantastic bloke and an alcoholic twin sister, Marnie.  Grace is frantically trying to keep all the balls in the air but a guilty secret is making it really difficult.  Marnie is a deluded drinker who had the perfect life but throws it away with her empty vodka bottles.  The sisters know Paddy from way back when he was Marnie's first love and he's proven to be an impossible act to follow.  Alicia is the lucky lady who's going to marry Paddy, but does she know what's she's letting herself in for?
I ought to say I have a good history with Marian Keyes, I relied on her earlier books as my major holiday reads and loved them.  However, in the past few years her novels seem to have become thicker and thicker and as I haven't had a pure beach holiday for such a long time, I have missed most of her later books and so got this from a friend to do a bit of a catch up!
Sadly, I didn't think this was great... (dare I say it?) it just seemed a bit boring, lacked humour and was way too long, it could have easily lost 300 pages.
I know Keyes can do the "darker" stuff, particularly addiction as some of her earlier stuff touched on, but alcoholism, depression, sex trafficking, domestic violence and the machinations of politicians aren't what I want in my chick lit.  She does cover the horrendous themes sensitively, but it just didn't sit right with the pretty, fluffy cover.
The Marnie sections were almost indulgent in their misery and I didn't care enough about her to wallow in all the gloom and self pity; Grace was almost as bad in that she inspired little empathy.  The only flashes of humour came from Lola and due to the other aspects of the book, the silly situations she finds herself in managed to feel a bit forced.  The abbreviated, text talk writing of Lola's sections were also annoying to read...yes, they were in character, but I'd have preferred it to be done differently.
I still think Marian Keyes is brilliant...she's a witty and clever lady, but this isn't (in my opinion) her best.