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==Synopsis of the book:==
Maggie settled city life in thrown into turmoil when she gets made redundant from her job as an Estate Agent. As not only has she lost her career but her home in the process as her Landlord was also her boss and he must now sell the apartment she is living in to pay of some of his debts. The economic downturn in Ireland also means her prospects of finding work immediately are slim. Added to her problems she has recently split up from her long term boyfriend after he took the last yellow jelly-baby in the bag (don't ask!!).
Her good friend Claire also having lost her job is planning to move to the country for a different way of life. In Claire's new world she is also made plans to travel to India to find herself. What she wants is Maggie to move into the cottage in the country for 3 months until she returns. And as it will be rent free Maggie sees she has little choice but to except something she would not ordinarily consider. The only stipulation is she must help out a little on the farm, where the beautiful cottage is situated. How will Maggie adapt to her new life away from all her friends and city life and discover what the rules are for a perfect life?
==My thoughts on the novel:==
I was very pleasantly surprised by this cleverly written piece of fiction. It was not my usual type of book but that did not stop me enjoying it. This was a chic lit and ordinarily not something I would try as they do not appeal to me. In the past I have found these types of books sealing too much with emotions and hard to relate to because they are written from the female perspective. Well this one was to and it had plenty of emotion and feelings involved but I found that did not cloud my opinion on it.
Added to this I had not even heard of this author before. And I tend to find it takes me a good book or two to appreciate and get used to a new writer to me. However I found on this occasion I immediately liked her relaxed but intelligent style and as a result I looked forward to each instalment of the book. I was amazed within three days I had read and completely enjoyed a very good and interesting story.
Niamh Greene is a mother to two children and a housewife. She lives in Dublin you really get the feeling when you read this book that she knows what it is like living in Ireland in either the City or the Country. So far she has written a total of five novels with her work compared in style to Sophie Kinsella. Her books have been very successful since her number one best-seller 'Secret Diary of a Demented Housewife' in 2007. The book I am reviewing is her fourth novel and was first published in 2010.
If I am completed honest I have to say I do not know what attracted me or persuaded me to purchase this novel. In the past I have been criticised for being blinkered in my reading style so every now and again I like to step outside my comfort zone and try something a bit different. I can only think that's what I had in mind when I bought it because it sat on one of my many bookshelves for nearly a year before I got round to reading it.
When I look at the books cover I have to say it looks like a book that is devised for a woman. The reason I say this is on my copy there is a picture of a lady reading with what looks like a cocktail by her. The writing style on the cover is also quite flowery. What I quite liked was the title because I think we are all interested in the rules for a perfect life. So I checked out the summary of the story on the back cover, this was unusual has it had the first three rules. I liked the concept and the witty ideas the author brought to the readers attention. Although I was also worried as a compliment on the back also advised potential readers that if they liked Sophie Kinsella they would like this, I do not like her books at all!!
The book starts with a preface this was five and a half pages and really helped the reader learn about some of the worries Maggie was having in her life and her justification for dumping her boyfriend Robert when he ate her last jelly-baby without asking!! On the face of it maybe an odd thing to do but clearly this was the final straw as more and more things about him and what he did annoyed and frustrated her. For me this was a good start but and I was curious what the author had in store for both the reader and Maggie as the story was about to start in earnest with rule one.
The story begins with Maggie losing her job and the dire effect this will have on her life. I found very quickly I was intrigued by what she would do. I liked the idea that because of her friend Claire wanting to find herself Maggie this City girl found herself living in the countryside. Especially as she never wanted to move there and her expectations of what life would be like was very different to how it all turned out.
I found I liked the start of each chapter. The reason for this was they were not just Chapter 1 etc., they were rule 1 and then there was a rule and I found it interesting to see what was and how that was incorporated in the story. It certainly made me wonder what the author had in store for the reader and I tried on numerous occasions to guess how it would develop and gave up as I was always wrong.
I found as the story developed it was an easy read with always interesting and clever ideas coming into the story. I enjoyed seeing life through Maggie's eyes and that when she told a little fib it was immediately turned into something much bigger and important by those around her. I found I liked the way the story developed and the way Maggie found it easy to unwittingly make enemies in her new surroundings.
And I enjoyed the way the story developed in some respects this was offset by the predictability of some of the outcomes. It would have been good to create more uncertainty within the story yes you could reach the same outcome but introduce a few curve balls. As it was I felt it was unnecessary to read the last fifty or so pages, which was disappointing. Especially as what had led up to this point was full of good ideas and I found entertaining and well thought out. So for me while I enjoyed the whole story the concluding chapters were disappointing.
However this was more than offset by the very clever and often humour the story processed. I found this really brought the book to life and I loved some of the intelligent and witty lines had me really laughing at what I read. This included some serous situations where the author was able with ease to inject fun into what was happening, that often surprised and impressed me. This was helped by having a good young character Polly who always added mischief and fun when she appeared with her very probing and inquisitive mind.
Maggie was the main character is the story and as such I found her an excellent choice as she tried to fit into her new country surroundings. I think in part I found her engaging because she was like a fish out of water who also appeared somewhat down on her luck. I liked the way her mind worked and how unwittingly her being there upset some of the local people. I was pleased the story did not focus on her feelings and emotions and focused more on her trying to get by and survive her three months in the Country.
While I loved the humour in this story I also loved some of the brilliant support characters within the story. For me it is rare to have so many excellent ones within one story and I am sure the author gave their characteristics a lot of thought because they were instantly identifiable and often very funny. High up on my list of great characters was Polly a six year old girl, who if given a bigger role would have stolen the story from Maggie. I found I enjoyed the few scenes she was in as there was always the promise she would appear again. Additionally Ted and Peg were great as was Matilda, in their limited roles.
The stories length was about right to tell an enjoyable and well thought out yarn. Yes in some ways the author could easily extended the story and introduced a few additional ideas. And while from my perspective this would have been good to extend the roles of the characters, it does in my opinion open up the possibility of using these characters in a story on their own should the author see fit.
I was so impressed with this novel, especially as it was my first read from this author in a book I wouldn't ordinarily enjoy. I think based on that I am certain I would read another from this author and next time not leave it a tear on my bookshelves before I read it!!
I would certainly recommend this as a very enjoyable chic lit. For me I loved both the humour the author created and I found on numerous occasions I was chuckling at what I read. I also loved the depth of the support characters, I thought the author created some excellent ones. The only disappointment to me was the story towards the end did become a little predictable it was a shame the author could not have produced something a little different or unexpected.
Publisher: Penguin books
ISBN-13: 978- 0141048659
Year first published: 2010
More about the author: www.niamhgreene.com
Thanks for reading my review.
This review is published on both Ciao and Dooyoo under my user name.
© CPTDANIELS September 2012.
'Rules for a Perfect Life' is another book I picked up from my local library. I was enticed by the bright red cover of the book (which is different to the one that DooYoo has a picture of), and when I read the back cover I was reeled in as it sounded like it would provide a fun read about the rules you should follow if you are a young woman that wants a perfect life romantically, and otherwise. An example is 'Rule One' that states 'Do not ditch the man everyone says is perfect for you because he eats the last yellow jelly-baby in the bag'. Clearly these are not supposed to be deep and meaningful rules, but hopefully you can see from this example that this book is meant to provide some light entertainment!
So, to give you some more detail, the story centres around the life of a young lady called Maggie who has quite a few issues in her life - she's in a relationship that she's not incredibly satisfied with, she's lost her job, and she doesn't really know what to do about either of these things. Each chapter of the book progressively takes us through what she does to figure her life out and is wittily entitled with a different 'Rule'. It's almost like she is outlining these rules from what we see her go through, and thus learn, from each chapter.
As part of dealing with her dead-end relationship and her job loss, Maggie dumps her boyfriend and moves to the country. The move is not so much out of choice but more because she doesn't have much choice left when a friend offers her what seems like a good deal. The move to the country changes Maggie's life completely, and this is when the fun really starts!
I can't say much more about the story without giving too much away so I think you'll have to read it yourself if you want to know more. What I will say though is that I am glad I picked this book up at the library as I did enjoy reading it. It wasn't meant to be a serious read, and that's fine as I wasn't looking for one at the time. I would definitely categorise it as chick-lit in terms of the genre that 'Rules for a Perfect Life' would fit in to. It was lively, fun and really quite engaging. I liked Maggie's character most of the time. There were times when I got a bit frustrated with her and it became a bit like panto with me, as a reader, wanting to just say 'come-on now, it's obvious'! But then I do think that chick-lit can be a bit like that sometimes! There were moments when I do think the author could have waffled a little less too, but then it was quite light and humorous too.
In terms of the story line I thought that it was easy to follow and provided a giggle here and there. Was it realistic? Well no, not really. It was even just a bit silly at times, but like I said before it was meant to be a humorous read. Unfortunately the characters were a bit flaky sometimes, Maggie included. This is a shame because I am disappointed when the main character doesn't have much depth. But to make up for it, there was lots of fun distracting stuff going on, and so I didn't mind so much.
Pretty much as expected the book had a clichéd ending. This was only mildly annoying as I wasn't expecting much different. I would say though that the last couple of chapters or so weren't as enjoyable to read as the rest of the book and did drag on somewhat.
To summarise I would say that this was quite a fun and entertaining book to read. There is lots going on throughout and it was quite easy to read. But if you are looking for something deep and meaningful, look elsewhere!