This Charming Man is yet another literary success for Marian Keyes. I really do think it is time she is elevated out of the chick-lit genre and respected for what she is - a great observational writer with a fantastic sense of humour, an expertise at unravelling a story tantalising bit by tantalising bit and the ability to address the more serious aspects of life in a truthful, unabashed manner, yet at the same time managing to be refreshing and uplifting in her delivery.
I would never read a chick-lit book by any other author because they tend to be too light-weight, with very little plot and two-dimensional characters. And Keyes has far too much talent to be categorised alongside such work.
This Charming Man begins on the announcement Irish politician Paddy De Courcy is getting married. We are then steadily introduced to four women this announcement effects the most and over time learn just why this is.
Cleverly, Keyes has divided the book up into four different sections allowing each of the four women to tell their different stories. These women are stylist Lola who on hearing the news flees to Knockavoy to stay in her Uncle Tom's cabin, journalist Grace, her twin-sister and former love of Paddy's Marnie and Paddy's fiance Alicia. As the four women's lives become more intermingled in the plot the narrative voice changes more frequently.
Each section is written in a different style. Lola's is in the form of a diary in which she enters the events of the day in note form. I know this way of writing has annoyed some readers but I found it added to the humour and helped to emphasise her somewhat scatty, hap-hazard approach to life. The other three women relate their stories in a far more conventional style but each is typed in a different font to distinguish who is talking. In this sense the book is very much a read by numbers. But I do not mean to be disparaging because what I wish to get across is the real substance and depth This Charming Man has.
On starting out you can be forgiven for thinking this is just another light-hearted tale of relationships and heartbreak. We think all of these women must be foolish to have become intertwined with such a man until we start to learn more about each of their situations.
The book tackles the subjects of domestic violence, alchoholism, abortion and rape with sensitivity. Keyes does not try to make a fairy tale out of these issues but depicts the real struggles these women have to go through to come to terms with their traumas. As a reader we are not encouraged to judge but to slowly understand why women find their way into these situations and the struggles they then face to get out.
But perfectly balanced with this is Keyes' usual brand of humour. I found the sections with Lola in particular brought some much-needed comic relief as she finds herself hosting tranny nights and drinking the night away in alco's corner. It is most surprising of all the secrets that Lola has to hide as a result of the spirited way in which her tale begins.
Keyes slowly reveals the truth behind each of her characters but keeps us guessing for long periods of time what certain developments in the plot could mean, for example why Marnie keeps waking up so badly injured. There are some twists in the plot that Keyes saves right until the end which is why the book is so hard to put down. As one situation is resolved yet another scenario is left up in the air.
In good Keyes' style the book ends on a high note, in this case one of good feminine solidarity and I suggest you pick up a copy of the book yourself, even if this is a style of novel you would usually shy away from, and find out more.
~ Introduction ~
Over the weekend I had a quick look at a 'Top 100 Books' written by the Daily Telegraph. It had 'The Time-Traveler's Wife' down as 'chicklit.' I could think of no reason for this, other than that it is written by a woman, and was able to accurately predict that 'Atonement' by Ian McEwan (also a love story) would be further up the list and described as a piece of worthy literature.
I say this here because Marian Keyes falls very firmly into the category of 'chicklit', but I think this is a shame in some ways, as some of the subjects she deals with are very real, and very serious, for many people. The problem, though, is that her writing is often hysterically funny and, let's face it, what eye-wipingly hilarious book has ever won The Booker Prize?
So, if it's not a prize-winner then it must be chicklit. However, if you're a man reading this, I wouldn't necessarily rule this particular book out! It might be harder for men to relate to, but it is by no means the kind of poorly-written, weakly-plotted trash novel you might pick up at the airport to read on holiday and then discard afterwards.
~ Plot and Characters ~
I don't think I would be spoiling the plot too much if I told you one of the main themes of the book is domestic violence. This is because Marian herself mentions it in her acknowledgements. Another is alcoholism. However, as I've said, these topics by no means make it depressing or hard-going.
The book starts with the announcement that a politician named Paddy de Courcy is going to get married, and four different women's reactions to the news. From then on the story is split into the four different perspectives. Alicia only has two very short chapters; her and Marnie's chapters are written in the third person. Grace's chapters are written in the first person, and Lola writes in the style of a diary i.e. she doesn't use full sentences, but more of a notation style. Each character's writing is in a different font.
Grace and Marnie are twin sisters, and Grace is a journalist. She lives in Dublin with her husband, where most of the plot is set, but Marnie lives in London with her husband and two children.
Lola is a stylist who moves away from Dublin to stay in her Uncle's country cottage for a few months, when things in Dublin start to go wrong for her. While there she encounters several very interesting characters.
Alicia is the character who is to marry Paddy, and as she only has two short chapters, there's not much more I can say about her.
~ Strengths ~
Some of the themes in this book are much the same as in Marian Keyes' previous works- there're some very decent, respectable men the women are involved with; there's the usual story where a woman starts off disliking a man she meets but gradually comes to feel more, and there's a dysfunctional but very funny and full-of-character family.
What's different here is that Keyes creates a gripping sense of mystery that kept me reading long past my bedtime. She manages to withhold several pieces of key information until the very last few chapters. She also, as mentioned, deals with a couple of very serious issues here, but manages to still be light-hearted.
What I think is probably the most impressive thing about this piece of writing is the empathy she clearly has with other people, and their various plights. She mentions in her acknowledgements, for example, that it was her 'humble intention to honour the stories' of the women who related their tales of domestic abuse to her. While I have no way of telling whether she in fact did justice to their individual stories, she certainly shows great empathy for such women in general- she doesn't judge, and she manages to explain to the reader through her narrative why they too ought not to judge these women for not just going straight to the police, or simply leaving the man in question.
On the subject of alcoholism: I don't think she could have written so convincingly or sympathetically about the issue if she hadn't experienced it for herself, and I admire her for tackling this so honestly and without a trace of self-pity.
~ Weaknesses ~
This book is almost 900 pages long, and for some people that may be a disadvantage. However, it didn't feel like that to me, as it was broken up into small, digestible chunks, and also, the font is very large!
The one real disadvantage for me was the note-taking style Lola wrote in. I didn't find it convincing that someone would write like that, even as just a record for themselves, particularly when it comes to recording conversations. It was difficult to read her conversations with other people when half the important words were missing. However, she also has the funniest chapters, so the style of writing is forgivable.
She also goes on a couple of overly lengthy feminist rants, but these are kept to a minimum.
I've just noticed how long this review is already- I'm in danger of writing in direct ratio to the length of the book itself, so I'll stop! Anyway, I highly recommend this book, if you hadn't already guessed that!
Marian Keyes: This Charming Man
I bought this book off my book club website quite a while back now, but have had so many books on my shelves to read that I just hadn't go around to it yet, but when I got yet another Marian Keyes book for Christmas off my husband (The Brightest Star in the Sky), I thought I would read this book, and then I can read the other one in the near future.
I have always been a fan of Marian Keyes, after reading a few of her books, The Other Side of the Story, Sushi for Beginners, Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married and Anybody out There (one of my favourites!), over the years, I eagerly awaited this new book, This Charming Man after reading about it on her website and seeing adverts on the TV for it, so when I got it, it was put on my heaving bookshelf ready to be read.
Now something I need to point out here, is my bookshelf holds around 60 books...and is full. Half the books read, half of them not read and with me constantly buying new additions, sometimes I forget I have some of the books, and it is one of the most difficult choices when it comes to me finishing one book, and going on to choose another, and it usually takes some deliberating. So that is why, although this book was eagerly awaited, it took me so long to actually get around to reading it!!!!!
When I picked this book up, it felt strange, I know that is probably a very weird thing to say about a book, as a book...is a book! But this book felt very heavy despite is been an average width of a book, looking like it would have around 500 pages from the outside, not too long but not too short either, just right. But I could never work out why it felt so strange to the touch. This was until I picked it up to start reading it!
I found the book was in fact almost 900 pages long! I couldn't believe it, I have a book by Stephenie Meyer from the Twlight series, Breaking Dawn, which is around 700 pages long, but looks so daunting and huge, I worry about starting it because it will take me so long, but this book is so misleading...I felt...betrayed by the book!!! 900 pages for a book, for me, is too long, it tends to take me a long time to get into it as I find long books drag things on way too much and bore the hell out of me, and I feel like I am making no progress through them even though I feel I've been reading for hours, I have barely even made a dent in the books pages, but with this book, it didn't feel like that! I think, actually that whosever idea it was to put thin pages in the book (you know the type you get in a hotel bible which are very thin and almost translucent?), was a very good idea, as it doesn't feel like you're reading a huge long book, and it isn't daunting or scary. So I really think it was a very good idea, also...it means the book has a normal RRP of £7.99, whereas the longer books usually have an RRP of £12.99!!
So that's enough about that anyway! The readability then for me, although a very long book at almost 900 pages (885 to be exact), it isn't daunting and scary as it's a normal sized book, which also means it isn't heavy to hold or hard to fit in your hand at bedtime!!
The story is written in the eyes of 4 women, and each women has their own "font" and "type" of writing, which makes it very easy to distinguish between each character which I love as it makes it so much less confusing!
Ok well I don't want to go too much into the plot, as I don't like giving away the story. The blurb on the back of the book really tells the reader all they need to know before they start reading the book.
Set in Southern Ireland, Dublin to be exact, Paddy de Courcy is a politician, and he is getting married. This may not seem like such a big thing to any normal person, but Paddy de Courcy is the most eligible bachelor in the whole of Ireland. And four women in particular have their own feelings on Paddy's impending nuptials.
First off we have Lola, she is Paddy's girlfriend...but she is not who he is marrying! She was in fact the last to find out about his engagement. And she is distraught! How could he do that to her!? She goes off to the tiny town of Knockavoy, to stay in her friends uncle's summer house. She needs to get away from Paddy, she needs to get her confidence back, and what better way than surrounding herself with the "alco's", an old lady who loves soaps, an Egyptian Muslim who she is sure is judging her when she drinks her wine despite him been nothing but friendly, a French seducer of a girl, a sexy surfer, and a foxy man from the welfare?
Next off we have Grace, she is a journalist with her own problems. She is determined to get Lola's story of Paddy, but she already has her inclines of him...she has known him almost half his life, and knows...in her own words... "where he's buried the bodies".
The third woman is no other than Grace's sister, and Paddy's ex lover, Marnie. Paddy left her years ago, but left her in a bad way. She can never forget their time together, never.
And finally we have Alicia...Paddy's soon to be wife. She is determined to do anything for Paddy at any cost. She will support his career and anything else he wants. She WILL be the perfect wife. But what hides behind Paddy's charming exterior? Does Alicia really know the real Paddy? Or will the secret which binds all the women together eventually come out?
As I said earlier, all these women have different chapters in the book, each taking parts of the book, and telling their own story themselves. Lola's story is written in diary entry form, which can be very confusing and hard to read, with words missing out, as she is writing in kind of note form (for example. "Went to pub for drink. Dark, dingy, didn't like it there. Don't know what doing here."), but it does get easier to read as you become more into it, but I found these parts took me longest to read as we went through Lola's day at timed intervals, telling us all the little things which happened to her whilst giving us insight into her past life with Paddy.
The rest of the characters write in normal "book" talk, like telling a story as it happens. But each character has different font, so you can easily distinguish between each character and when it is their turn to talk. I've never really come across this in a book before, and I can sometimes find it very difficult to concentrate on who is talking at what time when books are split into characters. But this book wasn't like this at all, and was very easy to read.
The plot is excellent and does a great job at keeping you reading all the way through the book, especially with the little tit bits which at the end of each "chapter" which tells the story of someone who we don't know as of yet, something unrelated to what we have just read, or what we are about to read, a small paragraph, just a page long at most, which gets us thinking...oooh is who is this about!? It's very clever as it really does make you want to keep on reading to find out just WHAT is going on...who is this Paddy de Courcy really...what is he up to...what has he done...or are we just completely grabbing at the wrong end of the stick?
It's an excellent bedtime read, but I have found when I get up in the morning after doing the dishes from the night before, I will usually sit, watch a bit of This Morning, whilst writing some reviews and checking my Facebook and emails, but instead when I was reading this book, I just read it at all times! (Can't you just tell I am unemployed!!!).
The plot is excellent and has some amazing twists and turns in true Marian Keyes manner.
If you have ever read a Marian Keyes book before, and enjoyed it, you will love this book just as much, it is a typical Keyes book! I wouldn't choose this book if you only have short bursts of time to read, for two reasons. 1) It will take you months to finish if you're only reading 5 pages at a time. And 2) you won't want to put it down, even if you do only have a short period of time. I picked up the book to read for 10 minutes a few times, and then looked at my watch to find 3 hours had passed...literally!
It truly is an amazing book with some fabulous loveable characters, and some loathsome characters! It's wonderful, funny, witty, clever and interesting. An amazing book in all aspects!
Marian Keyes does it again. From the moment I lifted this book I couldnt put it down. Its funny, sad, romantic and also very true to life. Four women with four different lives but all connected by the same man. This Book is ideal for women of all ages. It deals with real times. I was captured from the start. This possible is the best Marian Keyes has put her hand too. Irish readers will easily identify with Marians description of Lolas getaway place in Co. Clare. There are a few suprises inthe book. I thought I had figured out the ending but due to Marians styles of writing I have to say she did pull the wool over my eyes until the end. If you are heading on Holidays and looking for a nice book (although there is trama in it) then this easy to read book would be the one. Im sure a lot of women can identify with many of the characters of the book .
Yet another fantastic book from the pen of Marian Keyes , yes you can already guess i am a fan of her's and found this book not only funny but hard to put down, it is a real page turner. Its a book where it will have you saying "oh one more chapter then i will go to sleep " but you never wuiet get there ,
The advetures of Lola and her friends ...ranging from the sophisticated worker to a cival servant transvestite will have you laughing out loud from stat to finish. Despite the fact that lola is so in love with paddy de councy the so called charming man she goes on a journey of self discovery with the help of her friends and gains the courage to see that this charming man gets his downfall , not only for the sake of herself but for those other women that he has hurt along the way.
I wont go in to much detail but this is a book where girl power comes in to effect and will have you reaching for the tissues during the funny and sad parts. Seriously if you have not read this you need to buy it, as the book will leave you feeling stronger and ready to take on the world.
"Everybody remembers where they were the day they heard that Paddy de Courcy was getting married."
Lola was in shock - she's his girlfriend and yet she definitely doesn't have a ring on her finger. Grace holds a long ago grudge but that doesn't stop her from wanting to get the inside story on Paddy's engagement. Marnie's first love was the same Mr de Courcy but she still can't seem to forget the past. Alicia, the bride-to-be, is determined to make things work with her one true love.
Despite their different reasons, the four women are brought together, connected by a dark secret all surrounding this charming man.
~ My opinion ~
The book is split up into chapters which alternate through the different girls. Each is written in a different style and a different font for each character which makes it much more interesting. Lola's story is written in the form of a diary; Grace's is written in the first person; whilst Marnie's and Alicia's were in the third person. The description on the back of the book makes out that the story is about all four of these different women who are all connected to Paddy in some way, but the majority of the book was mainly from the point of view of Lola and Grace. Alicia only had two very short chapters and was hardly in the book at all so I don't even feel like she should have a place in the blurb.
To be quite honest I'm not at all sure why the book is titled This Charming Man because I didn't find Paddy de Courcy to be charming in the slightest. Yes he was good looking and successful but I never found him to be charming. I was expecting him to be charm-personified which was the reason he had both men and women falling at his feet, but I never saw the slightest bit of charm from him. I actually thought he was more of a perv and very mean and I don't have a clue why all these women ended up falling in love with him.
The main women characters were very easy to warm to with very likeable personalities. Lola is an extravagant stylist with molichino (not purple) hair and a very humorous tendency to attract slightly strange people. Grace is a hard-headed journalist who seems to be everyone's saviour. Marnie, Grace's twin sister, has a lovely family that she's always wanted but difficult problems of her own that no amount of alcohol can cure. And Alicia, although not appearing much, is determined to be a good wife to Paddy and refuses to see his flaws.
This isn't what you'd call a normal chick-lit book. It did contain the usual humour and anecdotes that chick-lits usually do but Keyes also made it a more real life book by giving the characters real and difficult problems including alcoholism, domestic violence, betrayal and abuse, and she managed to make every character who had to deal with these issues very realistic and perceptive.
At times the story is shocking but this, mixed with the honest hilarity in places, makes this book a great read.
I have never read a Marian Keyes book previous to this charming man, so I went into this without any expectations.
The book is based around four women: Lola, Grace, Marnie and Alicia.
Lola goes online one day and realises her boyfriend Paddy is getting married, and its not to her. Her story involves going away for months to come to terms with her relationship with Paddy being over and grow back into herself. She then creates new relationships with a group of cross dressers or Trannies in the words of Lola and her life has a complete change around.
Grace Gildee is a journalist, who believe Lola to be the key to revealing the truth about Paddy. Grace is known to be a strong-willed character and lives with her boyfriend Damien. Her aunt is diagnosed with Cancer and her sister is an alcoholic.
Marnie is married with two children, she has a dull job where she was demoted from mortgage broker to administrator because she is an alcoholic. Her alcoholism leads her husband to leave her with her children, and she looses her job. Is Paddy her first love the reason to her drinking?
Alicia has been in love with Paddy all her life, and now she gets to marry him, but is he as perfect as she always thought.
The womens stories reveal the truth about the notorious Paddy de Courcy. But does he get his comuppance?
I wont reveal the dark secret that bring these women together, but I will say the ending is great!
The book has a great blend of emotional and comical events and is a great read. I have recommended the book to my mum, and all my female friends. Its one to keep on the bookshelf! Its quite a large book, but definately a page turner.
The book discusses issues such as rape, politics and domestic abuse. Its amazing how Keyes can still keep a comical feel to teh narrative as it focuses on such dark issues.
Another Must Read!
This novel is the latest one from Marian Keyes, who has written quite a few books, most of which I have read. This is one of my favourite ones so far.
It's set in Ireland and centres around several women, with very different lives, but all of them have something in common. (I'm not going to say exactly what, because it will give quite a lot away, if you do read it!). There are some quite serious issues tackled within the plot, but Keyes has managed to make it a funny, engaging plot, rather than preachy or depressing. I think the main thing about Marian Keyes is that she does write very likable characters in her heroes and heroines and this is no different.
This is quite a gripping novel as there are flashbacks and it is written from several different perspectives, which keeps it quite fast-paced. There's quite a few funny characters and dialogue which I really enjoy.
It is probably a more girly novel than one for the boys I think, but if you like these kind of novels, then you will love this.
I first picked this book up because I'd read and enjoyed Marian Keyes offerings before and I thought it was great value for money being nearly 900 pages in length!
I read the blurb on the back and thought it was going to be your typical chick lit read but how wrong I was. This book in no way is superficial, touching on far deeper issues. To be honest if I'd have realised the book contained themes of politics, alcoholism and domestic violence, I may well have not picked it up but I'm glad I did.
'Everyone remembers where they were the day they heard that Paddy De Courcy was getting married' so starts the book.
Paddy De Courcy is a prominent politician in a leading Irish party, very popular with his constituents and charming to those he meets, that's how it appears on the surface anyway but the book follows the story of three main ladies that have connections with Paddy and their reaction to the news he's getting married.
The book is divided in sections each headed by one of the three ladies. I thought this was a very clever way of developing their experiences and highlighting although they were all very different individually they all shared a connection to Paddy that revealed a dark secret. At the end of some of the sections there are anonymous descriptions of events that have there identity revealed later on in the story.
First off is Lola Daly, a popular stylist working in Dublin who should be surprised that Paddy's getting married as she is his girlfriend and she's definitely not the one that's going to be choosing bridal wear! In order to ease the pain and shock of the news she heads off to the Irish countryside to her friends relatives holiday home and hence set the scene for meeting some random people that slowly become her friends and help her 'get over' Paddy.
Lola's sections are written in a diary format and I must admit it did take me a while to get used to this style of writing. Some parts of it are almost in note form and the sentence construction can take it's toll at times. I did wonder what I'd let myself in for but after abut 15 or so pages I had settled into it and read it with ease.
Her observations on things are quite light hearted and some of the 'friends' she meets on her retreat add a lot of humour into the book. If anyone has ever had the unfortunate experience of being duped by a bloke then you might be able to empathise with some of the crazy things that Lola goes through in her recovery!
It took me a while to warm to Lola's character and I think this had something to do with the writing style but at the end of the book I think she was my favourite character as I found her honest, funny and a little ditzy!
Next we meet Grace, a journalist who is interested in getting some inside information off Lola about her relationship with Paddy. However there's more to it as Grace knew Paddy from her childhood and has other connections that are slowly revealed. Its hard to say to much about Grace really without giving the tale away but she has a partner who is a journalist for another top Irish paper and mixed in to the main story is the battle Grace's aunt Bid is having with lung cancer. Because of this Grace and her partner decide to give up smoking as moral support which provides another area people can identify with!
Grace's tale is written in more of a traditional style and straight away you get the impression she is quite hard nosed when it comes to her job but this means she gets the results, well usually but she struggles in Lola's case.
Initially I thought that Grace would be your typical celebrity journalist but I was proved wrong, she obviously had a passion for her job, for getting the story out there and trying to get justice for the people but I think the interaction we saw with her family helped paint a different side to her and although she often came across quite hard we do get to see a softer side of Grace that warms you to her.
Grace's twin sister is Marnie Hunter and we meet her next. She is a wife and mother to two girls with a job in an Estate Agents, everything seems great but it isn't. Marnie struggles with feelings of inadequacy and guilt throughout the book and finds she can cope better once she's had a drink or two. This creates all manner of problems which we get to read about and we learn that ever since splitting up from her first love as a teenager , Master Paddy De Coucy himself Marnie has struggled with her feelings.
Although Marnie's sections are written in the third person, hence more traditional, at times I struggled. I think this was because the descriptions of her feelings are quite intense and the whiny, low self esteem gets to you after a while. I don't wish to sound harsh as I know people with similar feelings but sometimes you want to just grab her by the shoulders and shake her into action! I guess however that this really is testimony to the level of writing ability as it really does take you to the depths of despair that Marnie is feeling.
Marnie was probably the character I identified with least but as the story progress you do feel an understanding of what's made Marnie the way she is and you almost forgive her got that.
We also briefly meet Alicia who is Paddy De Courcy's fiancée, however the first time we hear off her she admits 'it would have been nice if he'd asked me first!' This paints a picture of their relationship in just one sentence and although you think she'd be a central character being the fiancée of the leading man we hardly hear from her at all.
There are numerous other supporting characters, including cross dressers, political leading ladies and the local village idiots all of whom link the themes of the book and the characters together.
Ive found this book quite hard to review as if you go in to to much detail you really would be giving a lot of the story away but in summary I would say once you get into it, the book is fantastic and although some parts were difficult to read, both in writing style and in the content it expresses, you just have to get to the end. Once there you don't feel cheated in any way and it made me think about these issues in ways I maybe never would otherwise.
I would warn potential readers that some parts of the book are a little descriptive in terms of domestic violence and although I don't feel I'm particularly sensitive, I was a little troubled at times, more in the fact you know that Marian Keyes has got these experiences from women that have had to deal with it in real life and that unfortunately these things really do happen. However I think she has done well to get the balance of fact with sensitivity.
I would recommend this book but with a warning that it is very different from her previous books and it might take a little while to get into!
Although it's over a month since I read this, I still think about it sometimes, and for me, that's one of the things that makes a great book!!
The book is centred on Paddy de Courcy, an Irish Politician who is about to get married, but it is from 4 different perspectives throughout the book and we only actually meet Paddy through the other characters.
The book opens with a newspaper article - "De Courcy to wed" before going into each of the characters individual sections for the actual content of the story.
~ Lola ~
The first section of the book is written by Lola, who is Paddy's girlfriend and is devastated to discover that he is getting married and it's not to her! Lola's first section is over 100 pages long and is written in first person in a journal like form. I found this was quite difficult to read at first as some of the sentences are written in a quite abbreviated form. I appreciate correct grammar so this annoyed me a little bit at first, even though it did make sense. After reading a couple of pages though I quickly got into it, but it took a couple of pages every time I picked the booked back up. I do think that this is an interesting writing technique and possibly a clever way using fewer words to make an already long book shorter?
I'd say that Lola's narration takes up the most part of the book so I felt like I got to know her quite well. I looked forward to reading her parts and learning about the events that were going on in her life. The other characters make appearances in Lola's chapters too.
~ Grace ~
Grace is a journalist and thinks Lola holds the key to the De Courcy story. We meet Grace for the first time in Lola's opening chapter. We get to know her quite well throughout the book. As we first meet her in Lola's chapter and it's from Lola's point of view as Grace as a journalist, I didn't like her much at first. Once I started reading Grace's narration (which is also in first person) I grew to like her much more, which shows that a different point of view can change an opinion quite easily. That's one of the reasons why I love books that are written from different perspectives as I think it gives the story greater depth and I enjoy them more.
~ Marnie ~
Marnie is Grace's twin sister and we first meet her in Grace's first chapter. Marnie's part of the story is written in third person and I found it very readable. I read her first section in one sitting and it was 60 pages or so. As her story goes on throughout the book I felt a number of emotions surrounding the events in her life. I don't want to say too much about Marnie's life as a lot of what I was reading I didn't see coming and I don't want to spoil it for those who haven't read the book.
~ Alicia ~
Alicia is engaged to Paddy and most of what we learn about her is through the other characters but she does have some chapters of her own (also written in third person). I was intrigued throughout the book about her as I was curious how Paddy was engaged to someone who isn't his girlfriend (Lola). I felt like I didn't get to know her very well until towards the end of the book when all the characters lives become much more intertwined and the book speeds up in pace.
~ My Opinion ~
I thought this book was absolutely fantastic. It started off quite slow but I'm really glad that I stuck with it as it soon picks up pace and doesn't lose it for the rest of the book. As the story began, it was like reading four separate stories with some of the same characters in each one. As the book progressed the reader begins to see the relevance in all the different characters and how their lives are connected. The main connection is Paddy de Courcy and although we only meet him through the other characters I felt I had a good idea about him as a character, especially by the end of the book. My view of him changed throughout the book as I learned different things about him from the other characters.
There are no chapters within each section which made it a bit harder to read as sometimes I put it down in the middle of a section as there was too much to read in one sitting. This made it slightly harder to get back into but after a page or two it was ok.
The four main characters all go into the past in some of their sections and I felt that this really helped to build the story and for me, was part of what made it feel so gripping. I read this book while I was on holiday and once I got half way through I didn't want to do anything other than sit and read it as I wanted to know what was going to happen.
Without wanting to give too much away, there are lots of serious issues in the book such as alcoholism, corrupt politicians and domestic violence. Despite such serious issues it was a still, in parts, a light hearted read and I thoroughly recommend it to any fans of chick lit!
Paperback: 896 pages
Publisher: Penguin (5 Mar 2009)
This book is currently available on Amazon for £3.86. Thanks for reading!
There is always a bit of pressure when buying your 'holiday' read. Do you stick to the classic authors that you know you have enjoyed before? Do you save the bestsellers up and devour them when on your sun lounger? Or do you, like me, have a very last minute dash into Asda the night before your epic 9 hour road trip and wish you had done your research before hand?
Faced with an array of depressing 'my father abused me' books (A Child Called It was responsible for this phenomenon but frankly reading about other people's misery on my holiday is something I am keen to avoid!) and then an equally astonishing array of what I think are termed 'Chick Lit' novels. Now normally I am not a reader of those either, I have probably unfairly categorised them in the past as nothing more than drivelling tales about women having numerous relationships all of which fail until they eventually find Mr Right only for him to cheat on her with the milkman.
I was stuck and compelled to buy one, sulking as I trawled through the vast collection I stumbled on This Charming Man by Marian Keyes. Now she is an author I have heard a lot about but again as this is not my normal genre is not a novelist I have read before. The front cover terms is as 'Her new number one bestseller' and is detailed with stars and pink text. The first thing that impressed me was its weight, at a hefty 885 pages of text at least I knew this would keep me going, I did have the fleeting thought that "Crikey she's dragged this one out a bit' but again the nagging feeling of a long drive and a short book didn't fill me with joy either.
The blurb starts simply "everybody remembers where they were the day they heard that Paddy de Courcy was getting married" combined with the title I put two and two together that clearly Paddy is the charming man. The blurb goes on to briefly introduce four women, Lola - Paddy's girlfriend, Alicia- Paddy's fiancé, Grace- a journalist and Marnie- Grace's sister and Paddy's first love. I quickly plonked it in my basket and for £4.86 satisfied myself that for the size of the book at least it could be good value for money.
I will endeavour in the following to explain the main themes and style of the book but further into my review I have dealt with one of the core themes further down which could be seen as a spoiler but I have indicated it as much as I could!
The novel is separated into sectons with each of the four key characters delivering their own narratives on events. Each character has a section of the start of the novel devoted to them and the story is told through their eyes, as the story develops each of these sections becomes shorter and as the stories become more intricately involved and the tension is built they become more involved in one another tales until eventually each narrative is only a few pages long. The novel very cleverly moves forward in time with each narrative, they do not all look at the same event on the same day but sometimes weeks on and make a fleeting reference to the past, for example one narrative will be looking towards Christmas and the other will then comment that Christmas was always a big fuss. I thought this was a witty device that gave the novel a good degree of pace.
Each characters narrative is told in their individual distinct style and tells her own story whilst all revolving around one man.
Lola, a stylist writes in a diary form talking though day-by-day her very gradual and real heartache that her boyfriend is marrying someone else. I instantly bonded with this women, Keyes got under my skin with her portrayal of heart ache and despair that comes with a breakup and you really couldn't help having an instant fondness and affinity with the character.
The instant bond I felt was a real surprise and my hopes were buoyed that maybe Keys acclaim from other circles might be justified! As the book is set in Ireland the character narrates with an Irish lilt and some of the dialect is clearly present in the diary. Her life as a stylist adds a sense of glamour, celebrity and although I am not one for fashion but I really enjoyed her diary ramblings about high society life. She leaves Dublin on a sort of self inflicted exile to help heal her heart meeting some great sub characters and becoming embroiled in Knockavoy's very own cross dressing club helping the men squeeze into all manner of outfits
"'Blanche" I called through shut door, 'if you need help getting into your underwear, please call me.' Did not relish thought of having to wrestle Blanche's manhood into submission but I am a professional."
Lola's character provides a good deal of humour and her diary style means you zip through days and weeks with ease. She begins to recover and remember bits and pieces that take the shine off Paddy more day by day and as you would expect in these novels there is a new man or two on the scene....
The career women. Both herself and her husband are journalists for big Irish national papers. Her character takes a little to get going but is relatively straight laced and we join her and her husband at the start of their battle to stop smoking littered with the trials and tribulations' that go with it. Grace has to deal with Marnie her sister and the flashbacks to their childhood begin to show her links to Paddy. In her role as a journalist she also becomes good friends with Dee Rossini who is the female head of one of the political parties, an ex-battered wife who has risen from the ashes to create a New Ireland a party she is proud of and a party that Paddy is a member of. As the story continues Grace's links to Paddy become more intricate and as the book draws to final stages Grace is instrumental in its conclusion.
I found her character likeable enough but not with the same warmness I had for Lola. Each character is very different but clearly deliberately done so that every reader would be able to relate with at least one of them.
Frankly the first narrative from this character did my nut in! A mother of two with a fabulous life except the fact that her husband didn't get his bug bonus, ho hum, everything I had dreaded about a novel like this! I really struggled to battle through the 50 odd pages of her whinging and self pitying life. However you begin to discover that not all is as it seems and that Marnie has a drink problem, the book goes back to examine some of the incidents that annoyed me and in fact tells them from a different perspective which makes you view her commentary differently. The drink issue was another tough one to read through as she is unrepentant and it ends up costing her an although lot. Her link to Paddy is that he was her first love but it is not till much later that you begin to discover the consequences this love had for them both. I didn't really like this character but I do think some of the pressures she was dealing with as a mother and wife of a successful man were real and well depicted.
Pointless, not actually a character just a device, as Paddy's future wife you wonder how she came to be but in the end her purpose is so that you, the reader wonder about her future.
And so between the four narratives a picture of Paddy De Courcy is built, a powerful, handsome, sexual up and coming political figure who has affected each of these women in extraordinary ways, however he has a dark side that begins to be exposed.... I am about to go on to discuss the core theme of this book but if the above has whetted your appetite I would suggest you read no further, again I will endeavour not to reveal too much but revealing some details are inevitable....
The core theme of this book is domestic and sexual violence, it manifests itself in different forms and the characters narratives are occasionally separated by anonymous incidents depicting some very graphic and horrific incidences, being raped following an abortion, being burnt with a cigarette and being punched in the face. These juxtaposing episodes are to begin with unconnected to the novel although it doesn't take a genius to realise who the perpetrator is but the victims remain unknown. Keyes cleverly reveals how incidences of domestic violence effect each one of them and how they all deal with it in a similar way, to ignore that it happened and attribute blame to themselves and not the perpetrator. This in itself is a tough subject matter incredibly expertly handled by Keyes. Watching one character in particular begin to deal with what has happened to her and then to realise it is wrong was quite upsetting and together they seek retribution in a clever and calculating way bringing a satisfying conclusion to the novel.
Keyes handles the characters reaction to this violence in such a tangible and understandable way that it genuinely changed my views on the victims of such crimes. It has been a great source of frustration when I have seen family members continue to return to abusive situations but Keye's emphasises the feelings of personal blame the characters have and also that they love the perpetrator who is apologetic and loving following the incidences creating a confusing paradox in even the most rational of women's minds (I appreciate men can also be victims but the book deals exclusively with the female viewpoint).
For me this book was entertaining, insightful and filled many hours, as I stated above I found Marnie to be a tiresome character but this did not effect my overall feelings on the book. I didn't get the laugh out loud pieces Id been promised but then I don't laugh easily at books. The more erotic scenes were well done, a little bit racy but it added an exciting element. The text changed with each narratives so you could identify easily who you were reading and I liked that each narrative became shorter as the story gained pace and drew to a head. I have to say it's really touched me. I thought Keyes build fantastic, real characters and I will almost certainly be dipping into her back catalogue again and who knows I might not write the chick lit drama off quite so quickly anymore.
Thanks for taking the time to read the mammoth review!!
£3.86 on Amazon at the moment.
I love Marian Keyes and have read most of her books. I brought this at the airport on the way to my holiday last year as it was in paperback especially for the airport (it was only out in hardback at the time on the highstreet)
Needless to say this book did not dissapoint and was just as good as her others.
The story was gripping and much as it was funny and I found I just couldn't put it down (no matter how hard I tried much to my other halves annoyance)
I don't want to go into too much detail with regards to the plot because I don't want to spoil the story for anyone. But the book revolves around 4 women, Lola, Grace, Marnie and Alicia and one, charming, man Paddy. Each part of the book is told from a different womans perspective but each single story interweaves each character.
This book is easy reading but tackles some difficult issues very well and has you feeling sad, laughing out loud and on edge all at once.
The only gripe I have about this book is the size. It is so large that you need a suitcase to carry it around which means that you can't easily take it on the commute to work with your for instance.
All in all a very good read (again) from Marian Keyes.
The central theme of this book is pretty obvious from the title. However the several simultaneous storylines in the book become remarkably twisted and keep surprising you until the end.
The central character of the central line is the poor unfortunate Lola. An immediately likeable ditzy stylist who is cruelly dumped on the front page of every paper in Ireland (everyone's been dumped, but this for every girl has to be a nightmare). She runs off to 'the country' and anyone reading will want her to get back on track and enjoy the little surfer distractions (plus the weird and wonderful transvestite meetings)
While the sublplot of Grace's revenge for her sister against De Courcy and her ex childhood mate simmering uneventfully for a while you do get the feeling it will build up to the climactic finish with the main story. Although some parts of this may seem irrevlevant the connectors all become clear eventually.
The oddest thing about this novel is the short extracts where you cannot identify the character narrating. These are quite violent and unsettling and I was unsure what to make of them.
Given the serious nature of some aspects in the book it is fairly upbeat. Keyes has clearly decided elements of comedy (Noel & co) and the romantic side are necessary to give the plot an alternative view. The ending is ultimately a relief with a happy conclusion!!!
I recently finished the latest instalment from Marian Keyes. I've read all Marian Keyes books and I wasn't disappointed with this one. I got the paperback copy from the local library.
The story follows the lives of four women, Lola, Grace, Marnie and Alicia and one man Paddy De Courcy. As with most books by Marian Keyes, the book is set in Dublin but we also visit County Clare and London.
The book switches between each of the four women and as the story unfolds you see how each of their lives have been affected by Paddy De Courcy.
Lola is a quirky stylist with purple hair (sorry Molichino!) She was Paddy's girlfriend until she found out he was marrying Alicia Thornton and her world was destroyed. In my opinion Lola's part of the story is the best; it's very funny and gives light relief to what can sometimes be quite a serious book. I love the style in which Lola's parts are written, very "Bridget Jones Diary."
Grace is a reporter, at first you think she's going to be a typical hard faced reporter but then you realise she's got a much softer side. Grace is struggling at work due to a colleague that seems to know every celebrity in the world and keeps getting all the scoops. Her long term boyfriend is also getting friendly with his ex wife which annoys Grace.
Marnie is Grace's twin sister, she lives in London with her husband and two children. I found Marnie's story very sad and could relate to how she was feeling sometimes. We see how Marnie struggles to fight her demons and get her life back on track.
Alica's story is only touched on slightly, she has a few chapters to herself but we mostly hear about her through the other girls.
It's quite a serious book, there are some heavy issues covered such as domestic abuse, alcoholism and it does get very political at times but I still found it very easy to read and I enjoyed it thoroughly. When it's switching between characters, you read about somebody being battered and abused by somebody but you don't find out who that is until the very end, I like this (not the abuse part you understand!) because it keeps you guessing and I changed my mind about who it was a few times throughout the book and I still didn't guess correctly.
My one tiny gripe with this book (well Marian Keyes really) is she chooses a word and it gets used way too much. For instance in this book Lola uses the word "burny" all the time and it does get very annoying. In "Anybody Out There" she uses the word "warcrime" a lot too. Just a tiny thing that I've picked up on that irritates me a bit!
Overall it's a brilliant book, sad and heavy at times but very funny and silly at other times. Well worth a read.
I first discovered Marian Keyes when my sister lent me Lucy Sullivan Is Getting Married some years ago and from then on I was hooked. Keyes characters feel authentic and she isn't afraid to tackle some difficult subjects which gives extra weight and interest to the stories without dehumanising the central characters. The women in Keyes books are flawed but they are not victims or heroes - more like how we would see ourselves or our friends to be. So it was with great excitement I began Keyes latest offering (picked up very cheap in Tesco) This Charming Man.
The "Charming Man" of the title is Paddy de Courcy - a charismatic womanising politician - and the story revolves around the women connected to him and their reactions on hearing he's getting engaged.
First we meet Lola (a stylist) who is so distraught she has to get out of dodge (Dublin) before she manages to destroy her career with her unhinged behaviour. I liked this character the least, maybe because she reminds me of a more exaggerated version of myself when I have been dumped in the past! I didn't warm to the diary style with time updates either in this part of the book and I believe this could be the reason that noone else I know has got further than Lola's first chapter before giving up!
Next up we meet Grace (a journalist) who is the polar opposite of Lola. She's a strong, quick-witted women with a nose for a good story who wants the exclusive on the engagement. This part was much more in the Keyes style that I have come to love - well drawn characters with depth but lots of humour too.
Then we meet Marnie the troubled sister of Grace. Her character's story was the hardest to read. It was so bleak and confusing that (like the people in her life who give her so many chances) I began to lose patience with Marnie. It was not pleasant to read a lot of the stuff with Marnie in and I would say if you are feeling in the slightest bit low this may be a reason to avoid this book completely.
Finally there is the "lucky" lady who is marring de Courcy - Alicia - who is determined to be the archetypal trophy wife but does she know de Corcy as well as she thinks?
This book can be quite hard going but is ultimately a very gripping, entertaining and satisfying read. There are so many twists and turns and I liked the fact you were kept guessing right up until the end. It was a book I was disappointed to finish and wanting more is evidence an author has created a believable and fascinating world with characters you truly care about - no mean feat. I would recommend this to anyone willing to be a bit challenged. Please give it a chance and go beyond Lola's character!
ISBN no: 978-0-141-02675-6, Published by Penguin in paperback 2009, 885 pages.
Lola has every reason to be interested in who Paddy's marrying - because although she's his girlfriend, she definitely isn't the bride-to-be. Heartbroken, she flees the city for a cottage by the sea. But will Lola's retreat prove as idyllic as she hopes? Not if journalist Grace has anything to do with it. She wants the inside story on the de Courcy engagement and thinks Lola holds the key. Grace knew Paddy a long time ago. But why can't she forget him?Grace's sister, Marnie, might have the answer but she also has issues with the past. Her family is wonderful but they can't take away memories of her first love: a certain Paddy de Courcy. What will it take for Marnie to be able to move on? And what of the future Mrs de Courcy...Alicia is determined to be the perfect politician's wife. But does she know the real Paddy de Courcy? Four very different women. One awfully charming man.