Saturday, May 03, 2008

This Charming Man by Marian Keyes

''Everybody remembers where they were the day they heard that Paddy de Courcy was getting married'.

But for four women in particular, the big news about the gorgeous politician is especially momentous...

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. And the dark secret that binds them all...

I have a problem with Marian Keyes. Well, not with her personally. I'm sure she is a very nice woman, but with her books. What could that problem be? Well, her new books don't come out fast enough. This book was released here early in April and now I have read it, and there is no sign of another new book anywhere yet, but I am guessing that it is going to be a year or so before there is another new one! That is the one problem with finishing reading an authors backlist!

Anyway, this book is told from the perspective of four women, all of whom have had some kind relationship with the charming man of the title, Paddy de Courcy. Paddy is a rising star in the Irish political landscape - tall, handsome, charming. And yet for each of them, that relationship with Paddy has left a lasting legacy that will change their lives forever.

I've said it before, and will probably say it again - Keyes is not afraid to take difficult issues and explore them, all the while interweaving moments of comedic genius. In some ways this is quite an odd mix, but it totally works. At well over 650 pages, this is a big book, but it covers a lot of ground from alcoholism, domestic violence, cross-dressers, Irish politics, fashion, depression, touches on racism, grief, cancer.

Having said all of that, this isn't my favourite Keyes ever, and that is mainly due to one factor, and that is the voice that was used for Lola. Each of the main characters had a different font that was used for their sections, and the voice of the characters were quite distinct, and that is especially true for Lola. I loved her story, as she comes to the realisation of where she was coming from in her personal journey, but her sections were written in such a way as to distract me from her story. All of the sentences in her section were very short and choppy. If she wanted to ask another character if they wanted a drink of coffee then it would be written as "Want coffee?" or if she was talking to one of her friends and wanted to say that she recognised that she needed to change then she would just say "Will change". As the book opens with Lola's story, I was actually really worried about whether or not I was going to be able to read this book to the end, because if the whole book had of been in that format I don't think I would have been able to finish it.

Grace seems to be the very opposite of her sister Marnie, and yet Paddy has left his mark on both of them. I did very much enjoy Grace's story, especially the relationship that she had with her partner Damien. Grace seemed to be confident and successful, and basically have it all together, and yet she nearly lost everything, including her relationship with her sister. If Grace nearly loses everything, then it is fair to say that Marnie really does lose everything thanks to her drinking. Now to be fair, Marnie was probably a fair chance to become an alcoholic before her relationship with Paddy, but the aftermath of their affair certainly didn't help matters.

I do find it interesting when I read Keyes take on alcoholism because she never shrinks away from the fact that she was/is/ has been/ an alcoholic for many years, so I do wonder just how many of the incidents that happened to Marnie are incidents that either happened to her personally or to people that she knows.

When you list some of the subjects that are covered it really could be quite a depressing book, but at it's heart it is an uplifting and emboldening story about friendships, love, family and inner strength.

As always, another Keyes that I would definitely recommend for others to read. And next time I am hung over and someone asks me how I am feeling, I am definitely going to be saying that I am "as rough as a badger's arse". If nothing else, it will make me laugh at myself!

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