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Mike Gayle is an author I am quite a fan of, as he writes books that are similar to chick lit but from the male perspective. I have read several novels of his over the past 6 years or so, and his style is very easy to read and quite chatty.
I hadn't read his work for a while, but I recently reviewed another of his novels and when I reminded myself how much I had enjoyed his work, I actively seeked out his work for something lighter to read over the Christmas break.
This novel was published in 2011, and features quite a strong family unit, the Bachelors. Brothers, Adam, Luke and Russel are all in their 30s, and none of them are currently married. Adam is a bit of a playboy character. Luke is in a fairly serious relationship, and Russell still lives in shared housing and spends most of his spare time with his best friend, Ange. Their parents are about to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary, and mum is concerned that her boys are destined to be eternal bachelors.
On the surface of this novel, it is quite a light look at the lifes of these three men as they try to develop meaningful relationship, then they have to deal with their parents suddenly deciding to split up without telling them the reason.
There are some comedy moments as the brothers deal with this shift in their family dynamics, and they have to cope with Dad moving in with them and cramping their bachelor lifestyle. But overall, the characters also deal with emotional plot quite well.
I did feel that nothing that happened in the plot was that unexpected. Once an idea was initially hinted at, the plot then followed that tangent along nicely and quite predictably. However, this was not dull, and I feel Gayle has a unique corner in the market as I can't think of any other male author who writes this style of book (the closest I can think of is Tony Parsons, and it is not quite the same.) Therefore his insight into the male brain adds something there for me which makes it stand out from similar books written by females. Also having the three male brothers being the main characters, it is very different compared to a female lead.
While I wasn't blown away by anything here, there is something very comforting about reading a book from an author like Gayle who consistently produces these amusing books that are quite good at observing people and therefore have strong characters dealing with everyday matters we see all the time. It is an easy read for sure. The plot was quite involving in that it kept me going till I had finished it, but it was not the sort of book that I necessarily had to read in one go as I couldn't put it down. I really did like this concept of a family who still all live within 20 minutes of each other and still see each other regularly, as it is just a bit unusual these days.
If you haven't read anything by Gayle, this is as good as any to start with. If you are looking for something easy to read but not complete fluff, then he is a good choice.
On the front cover of Mike Gayle's 'The Importance of being a Bachelor', it says - 'Relationships. Some people get it. The rest are men'. This really sums up what this fabulous fun is all about as it centres on the Bachelor family. There are Mum and Dad, Joan and George, and their three grown up sons, all yet to make a success of their love lives! Adam, Luke and Russell all have girlfriends but they are all in danger of losing them due to various reasons. However, the one constant in all of their lives is their parents who have been married for almost forty years. Therefore, when suddenly out of the blue their parents announce that they are separating, all their worlds are rocked.
Mike Gayle's relaxed conversational style is brilliant for showing what it is like to be a bloke in the twenty first century. All three brothers, although very likeable, are quite hapless in their efforts to form and foster relationships. Adam, is well known among his friends, for going for the wrong kind of girl. However, when he does find the 'right kind of girl', he does not know how to behave and is actually scared of being in a meaningful relationship. Middle brother Luke has had a hard time after his first marriage broke up leading to him losing contact with his daughter Megan. He has a second chance with his fiancé Cassie but if they cannot resolve their differences about whether or not to have children, there is no future for them. Cassie wants them but Luke cannot bear to risk the heartbreak that he has suffered over Megan. Youngest son Russell is best mates with Angie but secretly in love with Cassie. Is he looking in the wrong direction though as far as love is concerned?
As you can see all three brothers are facing dilemmas in their love lives and obviously things become more confused for them in the need to support and come to terms with their parents' altered situation. There are lots of opportunity for humour and pathos in equal proportions. As you are reading though, the overriding question in the reader's mind has to be whether these three Bachelors are doomed to be bachelors for the rest of their lives. I couldn't help but hope for a different ending though!
I think that Mike Gayle is brilliant at telling it how it is and presenting a lad's perspective. I love his relaxed style of writing and the characters he creates. It all feels very real as you are reading and these could be people that you actually know and care about. He does make more serious points about relationships as well though and in this book particularly seems to point out that good communication has to be at the heart of every successful relationship. Unfortunately communication seems to be one of the things that all four Bachelor men are not very good at!
All in all then, 'The Importance of being a Bachelor' is an extremely enjoyable read that I feel sure is likely to appeal to both sexes. It is Mike Gayle at his best.
'The Importance of being a Bachelor' is currently available on Amazon for £3.99 in paperback (September 2011).
Despite the example of their own parents' enduring marriage, the three Bachelor brothers show no signs of settling down. Adam has a string of glamorous girlfriends, but they aren't suitable wife material. Luke has just proposed to Cassie but his refusal to consider having children looks like an insurmountable barrier. And baby of the family Russell is in love with the one woman he can't have. Then their father announces he has been thrown out of the family home and this proves a dramatic catalyst for lots of soul-searching. Are all three Bachelor brothers totally hopeless cases or just late starters?
I'm no secret that I'm a huge Mike Gayle fan. I've read all of his novels, except for The Life and Soul of the Party and I've enjoyed them all except for Wish You Were Here. Dinner For Two is my personal favourite and I see a new Mike Gayle to be a brilliant thing because his books are just so easy to get into. And because he's a man, he offers a different kind of Chick Lit. He offers it from a lads perspective and like Matt Dunn that gives them a bit of an original edge because they're the only two male Chick Lit authors I know of. I was very pleased to receive a paperback copy of Mike's latest book The Importance of Being A Bachelor in the mail back in February and although it's taken me until April to read it, it was a thoroughly entertaining read.
Whereas Mike's earlier novels seemed to focus on just one man, his later books have widened the scope a little bit and they focus on multiple characters. The Importance of Being A Bachelor focuses on the Bachelor family. There's Joan and George, who have been married almost forty years and their three kids Adam, Luke and Russell. The family are close, with the boys spending each Sunday at their family home having a Sunday roast. So when George and Joan split up the boys are in turmoil. Sure they're all in their thirties now (or almost in Russ's case) but the shock of the split sends shockwaves through their own lives. I thought the plot was a very relevant one, because really, when your parents have been together a whopping (almost) forty years, it does come as a bit of a surprise. And despite how old the boys are, I could understand their confusion and resentment of knowing their parents marriage isn't as perfect as they all thought.
The books main focus is relationships. The Bachelors relationship as a family, the lads are forced to confront just how little they knew of their father as they find themselves having to accept him into their home. And the Bachelor boys have to confront their own relationships. Luke's not only with his girlfriend Cass but with his long-gone ex Jayne who took his daughter away. Adam is the perennial bachelor, by name and nature, dating supermodels rather than anyone with substance. And the baby of the family, Russ, has to deal with his unrequited love. I thought each separate issue was equally absorbing, and it set the lads apart easily. I liked how the lads had to deal with their parents breaking up and I thought Mike Gayle did that in a very realistic way.
I thoroughly enjoyed all of the characters. Because Mike is a man, he taps into the psyche of a man very easily and it's brilliant getting a story from the man's point of view for a change. My favourite of the Bachelor brothers was probably Russell, I felt so much sympathy for him over the love he had that he could never admit to and I really got myself attached to him. I also loved Adam, too, he's the definition of man-about-town until a conversation with his mates about who will get married next forces him to confront his own dating issues. Luke was my least favourite brother, I don't know why, he wasn't terrible, but I wasn't as invested in him as I was his brothers. I also really felt for George and Joan, it's clear that despite the breakdown of their relationship, they do love each other and the revelations surprised me. What I think Mike does best though, is the way he writes his female characters. I loved Angie, Russ's best friend, Cass, Luke's girlfriend, and Steph, the girl Adam meets. They were all strong, confident(ish) females, and I loved all three of them.
Mike Gayle is a brilliant storyteller. After the so-so Wish You Were Here, which was the last Mike Gayle book I read, The Importance of Being A Bachelor is a triumphant return to form. The story itself was wonderful and I adored the characters. I really felt into the story and I breezed through it whilst watching the football on a Saturday afternoon. I can't wait for Mike's next novel and I'm gutted we have to wait until 2012 as he scrapped Turning Forty as he wasn't happy with it, but I'm sure The Hen and Stag Weekend will be a fab read and will be worth the way. It's a brilliantly written novel, Mike's writing style is seems just so relaxed and I always find it a pleasure to read one of his novels because the book just flows so smoothly. I would very much recommend picking up The Importance of Being A Bachelor, it was a brilliant read and I didn't have any faults with it at all. It was just plain brilliant.