* Prices may differ from that shown
I really fancied Just the Three of Us, after reading the blurb at the back. I have enjoyed a few of Clare Dowling's book, with her last one Going it Alone being my favourite so far. I read her debut novel Expecting Emily, and was not that impressed but she seems to have improved a great deal since that first release.
Just the Three of Us is the story of a man that is having an affair behind his wifes back. Bob is married to nurse Geri, and they have two teenage children, when he meets Debs in the queue at the sandwich shop. They strike up a friendship that ultimately leads to an affair, but with Debs looking for Mr Right, and Geri thinking she is with hers (even if the shine has faded a bit) how long can this ménage a trois continue!
To be honest, I was slightly disappointed with this book. I know there is a bit of contention about chick lit that portrays affairs but that was not the issue for me - I really enjoyed Tess Stimpson's and Jane Fallon's books on the subject, but this just didn't seem to tick my boxes. I think the main problem with me was the characterisation of Bob and Geri. Although I felt some sympathy for Geri as a busy working mum bustling along maintaining the status quo, I just couldn't relate to her. I also found Bob very two dimensional, and I think because of that I just didn't care about the whole affair saga.
However I thought that Debs character was very well written - The loneliness of being the last one of your friends left on the shelf, stuck in a job where she is neither happy nor appreciated. Debs seemed to be the only 3 dimensional character in the trio. She is sweet and naive, but also has a dark side which fills her with self loathing at times. She seems to have a real crisis of confidence, and I really wanted to get hold of her and give her a hug, and tell her that she is lovely and can do better! Although she is in her thirties, she seems very young for her age, and if I wasn't told how old she was would have assumed she was at least 10 years younger, and I think the younger me could really relate to her, although as an early thirty year old married woman I had less empathy.
The book is written in the third person and tends to move between following Debs and Geri. Dowling has a conversational easy reading style to her narrative, which is easy to whizz through. That said it took me over a week to finish this book, because I just couldn't be bothered with reading it. I am glad I finished it as the ending of the book was a real surprise with a twist I didn't see coming, and the story really seemed to step it up tackling some hard hitting issues alongside the affair story. It is just a shame that the book didn't start in the vein of the last quarter of the book, as it had so much potential that it just didn't deliver.
I would read future releases by Emily Dowling, but I don't think I would rush out and buy any new release. She is not up there with my top chick lit authors, and this average offering does little to convince me that she should be, but I still think Dowling has the potential to be a major player in the Genre. I picked this book up for £3.86 in Tesco's, but is available from a penny (plus postage) used on Amazon.
Geri and Bob have a good marriage, or so they both thought. They have 2 children, have good jobs and a nice home. But when Bob meets Debs by chance in a sandwich shop near work, sparks fly and the two embark on an affair, without Geri being any the wiser of course. Debs loves Bob very much and wants him to be a part of her life, but Bob is of course far more reluctant. But as things begin to get serious for Debs and Bob, will their sudden relationship survive the scrutiny, and is Geri ever going to find out that it's more than just the two of them in her marriage?
I have read several of Clare Dowling's books after discovering her a few years ago, and my favourite to date has been Going It Alone, which was the novel released before this one. Dowling is very successful in her home country of Ireland, but seems relatively unknown in the UK which is a shame as her books are definitely up there with other great Irish authors such as Marian Keyes, Sinead Moriarty and Melissa Hill. This book is Dowling's 7th novel, the fourth of hers I have read and is out now in hardback, and in November in paperback.
The idea of this plot is a good one - seeing an affair from both sides of the story and the way it affects all of the relationships involved but there was a major problem for me. I found the tone of the whole book was just too depressing, and there was nothing happy going on to counter-act the misery of the characters which in turn made it hard to keep reading in parts. Although Dowling has tried to tackle some important issues in the book as well, these just add to the sombre tone of the book and I just felt at times it was all too much and had to pick up something more light-hearted to cheer me up a bit!
The narration is told in the third person which allows for quick and easy changing of story, as it tends to alternate every couple of chapters with who it is following. We first meet Debs who is single and desperate to find a man and prove to her mother she can find herself someone nice to settle down with. The progression of the relationship with Bob is good, and nothing happens unrealistically, but I just couldn't like it because of how wrong it was. She was likeable enough at the start, but I didn't like the direction she went in and therefore I really didn't like her parts of the story, and sort of wanted to skip them.
Geri wasn't a perfect character but I could sympathise with her because of her situation. Dowling writes with real heart as Geri's side of the plot progresses and I couldn't help but feel so sorry for her as her life as she knows it crumbles before her. The way her character is deeply affected is quite hard to read at times, and I credit that to the talented writing of Dowling because she really brings home how infidelity can ruin a family. Other characters pop up but none of them are worth mentioning here as they aren't vital to the plot but just pad out other scenes.
What I did enjoy about the book was the writing style. Dowling's books are always easy to read because of the nice folowing language, and good pacing of the story but this wasn't good enough to outweigh the overly depressing nature of the story for me. As I mentioned, Dowling does try to tackle a very serious issue in the book (not the affair) and while this is very well done and is very informed, it's perhaps just too much for what is already an unhappy storyline. After all, how much happiness can be gotten out of a book about infidelity? If you're a fan of Dowling's work, you'll want to read this but if you haven't tried her before, I'd recommend trying Going It Alone - much happier and an easier read!
ISBN: 978-0755341511. Published by Headline Review in April 2009. The hardcover has 320 pages, and an RRP of £19.99. The paperback edition is coming out in November 2009.
This review appears on my blog: http://chicklitreviews.wordpress.com
Thank you for reading.