This week it’s the turn of Ireland’s favourite writer – Marian Keyes. I read her newest novel, “This Charming Man”. In interviews, Marian Keyes exudes a kind of mumsy warmth with just the right level of sauciness – like an auntie, I suppose. Her novels are peppered with delightful Irish oddities such as “ride” as in: “He’s a ride himself, he is”. It’s Roddy Doyle without the depressing wife beating. Except, this one has that in spades.
The story is about Paddy de Courcy getting married, and the women he’s affecting by his announcement. He’s a politician ride, with sights set firmly on the Taoseich job. There are four narrators – Lola, his current girlfriend, Alicia, his fiancée, Marnie, his ex and Grace, Marnie’s sister. The different narrators are easy to deal with as they all have quite distinct voices. However, someone must have deemed the general reader as too thick to notice when a new narrator begins (generally the beginning of a new chapter) so each one is blessed with a font of her own. Lola, the kooky stylist with purple hair, has Comic Sans. I kid you not. It made my eyes bleed, especially when Lola got far and away the most page time.
The gist of the story (and I hope I don’t give too much away here – my advice is, if you want to read it, don’t read on) is that the women are devastated when Paddy announces his engagement to the unsuspecting Alicia. However, as the book wears on nasty memories are uncovered about Paddy and his preference for kinky toys and cigarette burns, which makes all of the women realise that he’s a bit of a cad, to be perfectly honest, and we’re all better off without him. The girls get their day and Paddy (boo, hiss) gets his comeuppance. Girl Power all round. Complete with the hand sign.
The other notable thing about “This Charming Man” (apart from having the same title as The Smiths song, which I sang in my head for the whole thing) is that it’s seven hundred pages long. That’s right. Seven HUNDRED. Admittedly I got the hardback copy, but reading the thing was pretty tough. I had to prop myself up with a cushion under the book, which got a bit uncomfortable after a while. Nevertheless, I managed to read it in four evenings, which is pretty cool and perhaps says more about the writing style than is polite. Despite the subject matter, it’s quite conversational and is really easy to read. Disconcertingly, on the back of the book there’s an intonement from Marian/Marian’s publishers: “Funny. Honest. Reliable. Trust Marian”, which further cements her position as mumsy but slightly saucy, what with all the kinky sex stuff and the domestic abuse. Hard hitting, if you’ll pardon the pun.
A Marian Keyes novel is the literary equivalent of Casualty – things go wrong, your favourite characters may be in danger but ultimately, you know that they’ll be okay and you’ll end up safe and sound.
Next week it’s Nicholas Sparks' “The Notebook”. Read it and weep, because I probably will.
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