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Mystery and Romance
The Woman in the Fifth - Douglas Kennedy
Member Name: kayers
The Woman in the Fifth - Douglas Kennedy
Advantages: Well written and fast paced
Disadvantages: Ending a little strange
**A Little About The Author**
Douglas Kennedy was born in Manhattan in 1955 and now lives in London with his wife and two children. He has written several novels and 3 travel books. I find that he is really good at writing from a female perspective, so much so that in A Special Relationship I could almost believe he was female and just using Douglas Kennedy as a pen name!
The story is written in the first person with Harry as the character telling the story. Harry worked as a lecturer at a college in America but a romantic liaison costs him his job, splits up his marriage and damages his relationship with his daughter. He decides to escape and arrives in Paris during the winter with only a small amount of money and no where definite to stay. The story follows Harry as he tries to find a place to live and work in a city where he doesn't know a soul. One evening he meets a mysterious woman named Margit and thinks he has found a friend. However Margit will only see him at certain times at her apartment in the fifth arrondissement and is very guarded about her life, past and present. Harry continues to visit her but finds himself plunged into a world where things happen beyond his control and he finds it increasingly difficult to understand what is happening in his life.
The story is part thriller part romance and there are a lot of mysterious things happening which kept me guessing right up until the end of the book. I would like to discuss the curious happenings in more details but this would definitely give away too much information about the plot so I will stop here.
Harry is obviously the main character and as he is telling the story it is his feelings and thoughts that the reader learns most about. We are told right from the first sentence that his life is trouble; "That was the year my life fell apart, and that was the year I moved to Paris". My imagination was captured immediately by this sentence and wanted to find out why Harry's life had fallen apart and what was going to happen to him. Harry is portrayed at first as someone who has caused a lot of heartache over his inability to act like a responsible adult but it later becomes clear that the mess Harry is in is not all his fault and that is when I started to warm towards his character and have sympathy with him.
Margit at first comes over as a slightly mysterious but genuine friend, however as the story progressed I alternated between sympathy for her and anger at the way she treats Harry.
There are several other characters in the book, such as Adnan the young Turkish guy who helps Harry, Omar the man Harry has to share a toilet with in his lodgings, Harry's daughter and wife, but mostly the other characters have relatively minor parts to Harry and Margit and so the reader only gets to know them as accessories to Harry's story.
Towards the end there are some graphic and brutal descriptions so beware if you are a bit squeamish!
I really enjoyed this book. The first few lines captured my attention and I found it really difficult to stop reading it, sometimes staying up much later at night than I intended to as I had to see what happened next! Douglas Kennedy writes novels that have good pace and don't allow the reader to become bored. Although there is plenty of description of places and people it is done in a way that is interesting and not so long that the reader gets bogged down and wants to skip onto the next bit of action - it all seems to blend together in a way that kept me interested. Douglas Kennedy is brilliant at getting the reader to understand the character's thoughts and feelings and see the world from their perspective. He seems to have a thorough knowledge of how people feel in different situations as I can always identify with his characters.
The only bit about this book I didn't like was the ending. I felt that it fizzled out a bit, almost as though the author wasn't quite sure how to finish the story. However, that may be something to do with the fact that the ending wasn't how I envisaged it and I found it a little surreal. On the whole though I really enjoyed this book, it kept me guessing and wanting to read more, so that has to be a good thing and I was sad when it came to an end, which is always the sign of a good book.
Summary: a good book for those who like a bit of romance and a bit of a thriller