Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Review. Marian Keyes.

This Charming Man.
By Marian Keyes.
Published by Michael Joseph at 14.99 euro.
Published in The Irish Examiner on 7th June.

Take one man. Make him charismatic, powerful and ambitions. Keep him single long enough to build up an interesting past; then fix him up with a fiancée, and watch the fallout.

In her new novel, This Charming Man, Marian Keyes tells the stories of three women. There’s Lola, a scatty stylist who dresses the ladies who lunch. There’s Grace, who could do with some styling, but doesn’t need it for her job as chief feature writer on Ireland’s best selling broadsheet. And there’s her twin sister Marnie; who appears as a happily married mum of two who holds down a high flying job in London.

Lola’s life falls apart when her boyfriend, the charming politician Paddy de Courcy becomes engaged to someone else. Her career on hold, she skitters off to County Clare to lick her wounds. That Marnie, and even Grace are also damaged by the news takes longer to seep through.

Marian Keyes’s novels have always been bittersweet. She always writes about characters who are so real; so rounded, that readers round the world can identify with them. This time, though, she has surpassed herself.

Keyes brings all the women vividly alive. She paints such an accurate picture of the way feature journalism works, that I know I can trust her to be as accurate on the lives of stylists, and financial dealers.

As for her descriptions of Marnie; and the way she descends slowly into extreme alcoholism; through the panic; the denial, the pain and the shame; it feels so authentic that no reader can fail to understand the condition better, after reading the book, than they did before.

For all that, though, This Charming Man is not a dark book. Yes, the content will shock readers; there’s worse than alcoholism here. But there’s also poignancy, loads of sex, and dollops of delicious humour.

Keyes’s pacing is perfect. It’s like a game of pass the parcel, where every layer that’s unwrapped reveals yet another surprise.

Keyes has long been described as the queen of chick lit- outstripping her rivals by a mile. This Charming Man defies that most derogatory term. This is a deep multi layered novel, yet is loses none of Keyes’s famed accessibility. This Charming Man will make you think. It will also keep you entertained on a plane, or by the pool. This novel is truly magnificent.

© Sue Leonard. 2008.

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