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I liked the title of this book, interpreting it as a tongue in cheek take on the usual "secrets for (happy) marriage" books that are out there - search for those words on Amazon and this is the only novel that comes up, among a sea of self-help books for better partnerships. Based on the title, I was expecting something along the lines of Desperate Housewives - witty, funny, a bit far fetched at times, but generally a light hearted look at married life.
Instead, I got a grey, drizzly view of life in the grey, drizzly north east, and as you've probably gathered by now, I didn't take to it all that much. The story is not all that bad - fertility issues upset one couple, affairs do their damage in another - but it didn't feel like a fresh story, it felt like an issue of Take A Break from the early 90s (which I used to steal off my Nanna because of their column about the little girl called Zoe who was dying of some disease I now can't recall).
In some books, the actual story is only a very small part of the enjoyment of the read, with the rest coming from clever use of language that makes the experience of reading it a pleasure in itself. Unfortunately this book and I didn't click. I struggled through it, but it took me a good week, during which several other books were started and finished with much more ease. The writing didn't flow in the way I'm used to, and now tend to expect, and the analogies and phrasing ranged from dubious to cheesy:
"Wendy pushes him ahead and her lovely big bum in its tight pants seems to fold in smiling, self-satisfied creases."
"I have bonked more burly blokes than him."
Personally, I thought this book was a bit too British, if that makes sense - it's all "Mam" this, and "give over" that. It was certainly more Coronation Street than Desperate Housewives, and while that may appeal to some it wasn't something I especially liked. Set in Newcastle, it's peppered with references to the north east that exclude those who are not familiar with the area and that's quite a lot of people I would image since unlike London, another location often used in this type of book, it's not a frequent setting for films or television, or short weekend breaks.
It's not exactly believable, but I suppose you could see that as part of its charm. However what got to me more was the predictability of it all, and from the second time she runs into a lifeguard, early on in the book, you just know it's going to be downhill from there, whether he sticks around or not.
This book is set a step further on than most chick-lit affairs - it's past the dating dilemmas of your 20s when the main issue seems to be "will the main characters ever find Mr Right, or just have to settle for Mr Right Now?", and is set instead at a later point in life. This lot are older, but not necessarily wiser, and the story focuses around the problems of their marriages. It does not paint an especially appealing picture of this time in their lives, and didn't get me excited about what could be to come for me in 10 years time. That said, it had its moments, and every so often there were a few pages that I really enjoyed, before it all sank back down again. In other ways, it reminded me of Marian Keyes' writings, and I know she has a huge fan base so there could well be people who take to this book in a way I just didn't (NB, I'm also not much of a Marian fan).
By the end of the book, I was fed up with the characters and their ongoing sagas. I thought Jill was annoying and a little too smug at times, and her journey from happily married to unhappily married was a bit too quick and easy. She and her friends weren't people I warmed to, or whom I wanted to know more about, and I think if they had been, this could have been a more positive review, even with the same storyline. That said, if you are an unhappily married 30 - 40 something, living in Newcastle with a mother with dementia and are contemplating an affair, this could be the book for you!
This is not the easy going beach book / cosy-sofa-in-front-of-a-fireplace book you might think from the title - if that's what you're after, why not have a look at another tale of married life and the lure of affairs in "Any Way You Want Me" (reviews available on Dooyoo) instead?
This is a slightly amended version of my original review, published on The Bookbag.
Available on Amazon for about £6.50 new, or, rather tellingly, from 1p used.
'Affairs are easier to have than you'd think.' Jill and Rob are happily married - until they discover that it's Rob's fault they can't have kids. It isn't the end of the world for Jill. She's just happy to have a trustworthy husband who loves her deeply and presses all the right buttons in the bedroom. But Rob's gone off sex and refuses even to discuss it. In fact, all communication between them has come to an infuriating halt. And Jill just yearns for a bit of fun. It wouldn't be so bad if one of her best friends wasn't having the best sex of her entire life (albeit behind her husband's back) while her other friend has a stunning husband who she's still in lust with. But are things ever what they seem? How well do we ever know our husbands, our best friends or even ourselves? Jill is about to find out when she faces infertility, infidelity and the truth head on.