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The Ex-boyfriend's Handbook - Matt Dunn

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Genre: Fiction / Author: Matt Dunn / Paperback / 416 Pages / Book is published 2006-10-02 by Pocket Books

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    7 Reviews
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      02.08.2011 13:02
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      A good read from a male perspective on love

      This is another of the novels that I picked up at my local library to read as I await the arrival of our baby! When browsing in the library I was pretty sure that I had read a previous review about this author and this book and from what I remembered it had been well praised, so I felt it was worth giving it a go. I think what drew my attention to it, was the fact that it was in the chick lit section but was written by a male - Matt Dunn, who has written a bestselling novel 'Best Man' which Ihave yet to see in the my local library.

      This book is written in a diary form, although not necessarily like Bridget Jones on a daily basis. The story revolves around two main male characters, as well as a few female characters thrown in. The main male is Edward, an IT head hunter, whose long term girlfriend has just walked out on him, leaving him a note to tell him that she pretty much has had enough of his ways, that he needs to change, and she is off to Tibet to have a break. She does let him know the date that she will return, and so after the initial shock of finding the note, as well as the majority of the furniture gone, Edward gets to work to try to sort out his life, and discover for himself why his girlfriend Jane has left him. Along the way, he is aided by his best friend Dan, a bit of a sleaze who has an horrendous track record with women, but who he charms using his slick ways and exploiting the fact that he is a TV host on an antiques show.

      As the process goes on for Edward, Dan tries to persuade Edward to try new things. He persuades him to swap his old volvo for a new mini, he gets him to get some new modern furniture, he sends him for a make over, encourages him to ditch the glasses in favour of eye laser (although contact lenses become more appealing!) and even gets him to go speed dating, in an effort to help Edward re connect with women. Most of their plans and meetings take place in their local pub the Admiral Jim, where they often seek the advice of barmaid Wendy, who quite obviously has a soft spot for Edward throughout.

      It takes Edward a while to face up to the fact that he has let himself go in terms of his attentiveness to Jane as well as his looks and weight, and so he pays for a personal trainer Sam to get him into shape, as well as following the likes of the Aktins diet to shed some more pounds. As the book continues so does Edwards relationship with Sam, although in a purely professional way, but it is clear that sparks fly between them, and she becomes someone that Edward can talk to. The question however is - will Edward win back Jane when she returns from Tibet or in fact will he actually want her back, given that he really has created a new life for himself now?

      I very much enjoyed this book. Although there are some commentaries on the back saying that it is very funny, it is amusing in places, but I wouldn't say laugh out loud. I never warmed to Dan the entire way through the book, and although he did spend time helping Edward, it was usually for his own gain, and he exploited Edward in terms of getting him to pay for everything for the both of them. Edward on the other hand, was a warm caring guy, who had simply fallen into a rut, where he was in a comfortable relationship and didn't see the need to do anything different. At times it was easy to feel very sorry for him, especially the way many women treated him when pre make over, and it was therefore nice to see, that after the make over of both his physical appearance and his general life, that rather than the girls all throwing themselves at the smary Dan, Edward could not glean their attention.

      My only criticism of the book, is that I thought it dragged a little at the beginning, and it took a while for it to really get going. There were too many conversations between the likes of Dan and Edward for my liking, and I felt that a lot of this was simply page filling and it wasn't really necessary, and could easily have been condensed. Once you got past the half way point however, it did become a bit of a page turner, and I finished the book very quickly at that stage and enjoyed it.

      Overall, it was interesting to read a novel from a male perspective, and certainly there were many elements of believablity. I would certainly keep an eye out for Matt Dunn's other book, as I did enjoy his writing style on the whole.

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      15.09.2010 21:20
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      Enjoyable

      Matt Dunn was not an author I had heard of but both the cover and the title of The Ex-Boyfriends Handbook appealed to me as it sounded like a fun easy read that would make a change from the usual chick-lit that I read on holiday.

      As I said the cover did appeal to me, it has nice muted colours with bright cerise writing and various guy grooming products and a recommendation from Mike Gayle who is an author I enjoy.

      Edward Middleton returns home from work one day to discover that his girlfriend Jane has left him. She takes the majority of the furniture but does leave him a note explaining her disappearance, she accuses the bewildered Edward of letting himself go and says she will be back in a few months and they can see what happens then.

      Edwards best friend Dan, a handsome television presenter, points out that Jane might have a point and that Edward is certainly not the sexy young man that Jane had originally moved in with. This revelation galvanises the heartbroken Edward into action but will he succeed in turning himself into the attractive, upwardly mobile male that Jane demands or will he prefer to continue his easy, lazy existence?

      I found this a very easy read, the language is straightforward and it flows very well. The pace is quite rapid and I found it to be a real page-turner. There were no great cliff-hangers but I found that I became very attached to Edward and wanted to know how his life was going to work out. Anyone who has been in a long-term relationship knows that you probably looked your best at the beginning, before age and life took their toll on your youthful good looks, however you hope that there is more to your commitment than appearances. With this in mind it is easy to see why my sympathies were immediately with Edward rather than the absent Jane.

      As a female I really don't know if this is true to life of the way men think, I have only been married 20 years so obviously the male psyche is still a bit of a mystery to me! However it felt very believable and Edwards's complete inability to read some of the signals that were coming his way certainly sounded like some of the men I know. As the author is male I presume that he has based at least some of the ideas on his personal experience or on people he knows.

      The contrasting personalities of Dan and Edward were intriguing. They liked and respected each other but their attitudes to women were incomprehensible to each other. Dan couldn't see why any man would want a woman to hang around past breakfast whilst Edward was clearly desperate to be part of a couple.

      I found this book made a refreshing change as I haven't read anything like it for quite a while. It was very humorous and although I wouldn't say it was laugh-out-loud funny it was certainly entertaining. There were a few things in the storyline that didn't go quite as I expected which was good as I don't like it when books are too predictable.

      Although this can't really be called chick-lit I think it would appeal to anyone who enjoys that genre. It is a light, quick moving read that deals with the complexities of life and how sometimes things just don't seem to go your way!

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        01.05.2010 17:02

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        i was so sad when the book finished!

        I picked this book up in a bundle of used second hand books and so it was not a direct choice on my part, however it looked intriguing and very unlike anything I had ever read before. I was a little unsure about the book being written by a male, yet choosing the subject of girlfriends, dating and so on - a topic most normally treated by female writers. IHowever, think this added a certain appeal. The opening chapter sets the scene for the rest of the book and from page one I was hooked. The main character sets on a quest to recapture the love from his ex girlfriend by embarking upon a strict diet and fitness regime to regain his lost sex appeal and figure. Amusing and well written; the author has an excellent ability to capture even the finest details of his characters; people you eventually feel like you know and can empathise with. It concludes with a somewhat surprising twist which makes it all the more great to read. I loved it!

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        23.07.2009 00:16
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        A refreshing take on a worn out genre

        There aren't many books about relationships and romance that are written by men its mostly a women dominated genre so it was refreshing to find this book and see what it's like from a mans perspective. I really enjoyed reading this book, it well written easy to read, funny, and heart warming. It's very realistic and you find yourself going on a journey of self discovery with the main character. The book lets you into this characters life and you begin to emphathise with his situation. The general plot is that having been dumped by his long term girlfriend Edward Middleton has get back in the game by making himself appear attractive to the opposite sex. You see his failures and successes and it give a real insight into the minds of men. This book is very witty and the characters are full of personality and are very life like. The book is written in a diary format so you really get a good look into the characters thoughts and feeling. You will not want to put this book down until you have finished it and it's nice to read about love from a man's point of view.

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        02.05.2009 19:37
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        chick lit with a male lead

        As the old song goes "Breaking up is hard to do". Edward Middleton, the her of "The Ex Boyfriend's handbook" by Matt Dunn can certainly sympathize with this. After over a decade together his girlfriend Jane has suddenly upped and left him to find herself in Tibet for three months taking most of the furniture from their flat with her. She suggests he refinds himself as he's become stuck in a rut and "let himself go so she's letting him go". Edward has three months to sort himself out and regain the love of his life. Can he do it? Thus is the beginning of a fairly enjoyable e comic romp through blokiness, speed dating and make overs with some nice poignant moments.


        Set in contemporary trendy Brighton (which is very recognisable and accurate from the three days I have spent there) the Ex Boyfriend's Handbook is a slice of "lad lit" similar to authors such as Nick Hornby, Tony Parsons and Mike Gayle. I bought my copy for a pound in a charity shop because I liked the idea of a male perspective of a relationship break up but also wanted a light easy to read comic novel. and that's what I got. I liked the format of the book. Its written almost as a diary with date headings in the first person. this suited me, as I find it easier to get inside a character's head and understand them. I found it super easy to read. I managed to finish all 406 pages within a week which is pretty good going for me.

        What made the book for me even if they were a little bit cliched were the characters. Edward is your Mr Nice and average guy on the street.. He may be a bit out of shape , out of style and stuck in a rut but he is also loyal if a bit unappreciated by his girlfriend, boss and best mate. He is likable, and blokey enough without being a Neanderthal. I did care enough about him to want to see him through the three month period that spans the book to see whether he got the girl he wanted. hr would be the sort of guy I would date. One thing that did annoy me was that at times I found him to be too easily pushed around and this I wanted him to stop being such a door mat and stick up for himself and cheered him on when he eventually did.

        On the other hand there is his best mate Dan who is a complete contrast to Edward. Dan is a presenter on a daytime antiques show and a minor local celebrity. He's the type who would attend the opening of a paper bag if it brought him publicity He is also vain, insensitive,and thinks he is God's gift to women when he is not. He is such a comic character as he is such a deluded poser who you just want to slap half the time but he genuinely is fond of Edward and does want to help him in his quest to get Jane back . I loved the scenes between the two in the bar pondering over the mysteries of women and scheming scheming whilst Wendy the barmaid puts her tuppence ha'ppeny worth in whilst being a sarcastic adversary to Dan.

        The humour in this book works to an extent. I did find myself giggling a bit, especially in the speed dating scenes and as said the banter between Wendy, Dan and Edward in the pub. but it was not laugh out loud. There were a lot of set pieces and visual humou that would work really well if this was made into a film ala the duck incident in Nick Hornby's "About A Boy". However I found some of them too predicable and could see some of the situations coming a mile off. I also sort of guessed the end although I did have a couple of options in mind. i suppose this is a criticism of the plot in general that it was pretty predictable but not totally.

        One thing I wondered was who the target audience was for the book? I would guess at the same market as the aforementioned Nick Hornby or Tony Parsons but it is not quite in the same league. However I am not so sure about that , as I found the plot to be quite girly with boy loses girl and boy wants to get girl back. It can be quite soppy and poignant in places. Then again so can most men behind their macho exteriors. Its interesting to note Matt Dunn thanks two well known chick lit authors Freya North and Chris Manby in his acknowledgments , so perhaps this is aimed at the slightly more sensitive man and also the girls who want a male lead and perspective in a chick lit plot.

        I probably would recommend "the Ex Boyfreind's handbook", as it was fairly amusing and enjoyable although it is not the most original book in the world. . It would make good holiday reading, as there are very few deep issues apart from the two sexes understanding each other which actually is a very tricky one to understand. Will I read the sequel "Ex-Giirlfri3nd United"? I'm not sure maybe if I saw it in a charity shop or in a library as I would not go out of my way to buy it full price.

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          25.03.2009 15:10
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          One of the better books in the man lit genre

          The Ex Boyfriends Handbook by Matt Dunn is a rather Amusing and at times touching novel that will strike a chord with both men and women alike.

          The Book follows the plight of Edward, who recently dumped by his long term girlfriend, with the message its not me it's you, starts up on a mission of self improvement in order to win her back.
          Aided by his Best friend, the good looking, Dumb, Narcissistic and wonderfully un-politically correct TV presenter Dan he has to learn what it was that got him dumped and what he can do to fix it.

          The book is a must for women looking to understand the inner workings of a mans mind and a great hand book for men wondering were they've gone wrong in terms of impressing women.

          Dunn has shown himself here to be a master of the male chic lit genre, creating characters that you can't help but have a soft spot for. and having read several of his other novels i can say that this is not a one off and the man is a comic genius.

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          04.11.2008 16:05
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          A brilliant book, I loved it!

          For some unknown reason, I do seem to stick to books written by women. This is probably because I mainly read the Chick-Lit genre most, and these are generally written by women, but I will read books written by men if they appeal. One such writer is the hilarious Matt Dunn. I read one of his books called "From Here to Paternity" (reviewed on Dooyoo!) in Mauritius last year and loved it so when I found out he had a new book out last month, I grabbed a copy. But I then found out it's a sequel to one of his previous books, The Ex-boyfriend's Handbook, so I had to hot-foot it down to the library to read the prequel first as I didn't want to spoil my enjoyment of his latest through not knowing the back story!

          Edward is shocked to come home from work one day to find his girlfriend of ten years, Jane, has done a runner, taking everything of hers from their flat in the process. She's left Edward a note saying it's his fault, and that she'll be back in 3 months but he has to change. Edward's not really aware of his faults until best friend and TV Antiques Show presenter Dan Davis is more than willing to show Edward exactly where he is going wrong. So, Edward sets out to fix everything that's wrong with him in order to win Jane back, with more than a little help from Dan along the way. But is it just Edward's image that is going to change?

          It was almost immediately that I realised this was going to be a book I was thoroughly going to enjoy reading, because the first couple of pages had me laughing out loud! Dunn doesn't hold back at all and starts the humour right from the very first page, immediately drawing his readers in and getting them engaged not only with the story, but with poor pitiful Edward as well. You can't help but feel sorry for the guy who has been dumped by a letter, as well as having his flat stripped of almost everything, yet Dunn writes in such a way that it isn't a sob story, rather one that makes you giggle along, feeling slightly guilty that you're doing so! I was sure that this was going to be a great book, and I was right.

          As the book goes along, Edward goes on a journey off self-discovery, being told by his best friend Dan what exactly is putting Jane off, from his teeth, to his weight, even to his poor clapped out old Volvo. During the course of the book, Edward sets about changing all of these things, often with hilarious consequences, that is if he can actually get up the guts to go through with these things. Dunn manages to find something humourous to write about for each thing Edward has to change, and probably the funniest of all has to be Edward's sessions with personal trainer Sam. I was literally laughing so hard at points, I had to stop and take a breather from the book because my eyes were streaming - pure brilliance and so, so funny to read!

          Dan is clearly the character you are meant to hate, he is such a smug smarmy git that you just want to wipe the smile off his face to be honest. He's convinced he is God's gift to women and therefore is in a position to advise Edward on his lifestyle changes. Sometimes the way Dan spoke to Edward made me wonder if they would be friends in real life, but this is the beauty of a novel - unlikely characters being best mates, hence plenty of cringing yet hilarious dialogue between the pair. I couldn't help but laugh at the nightclub scenes where Dan and Edward decide to pick up women, and also when the pair go to a car showroom - I defy you not to laugh!

          But what really makes this book work is just that Edward is so loveable bless him, and you just want everything to work out for him in the end! I got halfway through the novel when I decided for myself how I wanted things to go at the end, and Dunn didn't leave me disappointed. Edward's journey is incredibly funny and the laughs don't stop from the minute you pick the book up until the second you put it down, so for that reason alone I would recommend you read this! It's a light-hearted book not to be taken too seriously, with an easy to read writing style, and because of the first person narrative of Edward, you get right into the nitty-gritty of the friendship of Edward and Dan, as well as those infamous training sessions with Sam! It was a joy to read, and I can't wait to read its sequel, Ex-Girlfriend's United, now!

          ISBN: 978-0743495523.
          Publisher: Pocket Books, October 2006.
          Pages: 416 (paperback).
          Amazon Availability: £5.49

          Official website: www.mattdunn.co.uk

          Thank you for reading!

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