Learn Love in a Week by Andrew Clover
|Learn Love in a Week by Andrew Clover|
|Category: Women's Fiction|
|Reviewer: Trish Simpson-Davis|
|Summary: Read it, loved it, will be passing it round my friends.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 400||Date: May 2013|
|External links: Author's website|
If you have been looking for a successor to Eat, Pray, Love, then I commend the equally feelgood Learn Love in a Week to you. As with Nick Hornby or David Nichols before him, it’s much nicer to read the book before you see the film (which will inevitably follow). Yes, we are talking class act here.
It’s not often that an author handles both male and female points of view with equal confidence and verve. The versatile Mr Clover is totally convincing as wife Polly, wage earner and family manager; and husband Arthur, an unemployed Writer, Actor, and overworked Dad. He should know: Andrew Clover is the male Slummy Mummy, writing a warm and witty Sunday Times column about his own stay-at-home husband role over the past couple of years. If you missed them, check out his website to convince yourself that his writing is not to be missed.
The Midgleys, who have been married for ten years and have three children, are long since past the madly passionate stage in their relationship – or at least Polly is. From her point of view, Polly is drowning in executive domesticity, that is, holding down a job while trying to organise Arthur to be as effective a parent as she would be, if she were a stay-at-home Mum. Arthur sees his role differently: he’s more interested in the hearts and minds of his kids than essential maintenance to the fruit bowl.
Changes in narrator show how far the couple have drifted apart in their stereotyped roles. In mid-sentence, the focus (and our sympathies) unexpectedly switch from one to the other. The two of them rationalise every situation from completely different angles, and they don’t cut each other much slack.
Arthur, like a lot of UK men, is trying his best in the face of overwhelming feminist odds. As a reconstructed male, he struggles to be all things to all his women. He is only too conscious of his shortcomings, because Polly so easily outpaces him. Of course he irritated me, but I couldn’t help sympathising with his plight. It’s hard being the underdog in a woman’s world. What makes him a lovable and memorable hero for me is that he isn’t frightened of expressing his emotions and never loses his goodwill (or lust) towards Polly, despite quite some provocation.
Polly isn’t sexually very interested in Arthur now his procreating job is done, though occasionally she is overtaken by nostalgic goodwill towards him. It takes an old boyfriend to rekindle her flames of passion, and for a long time it seems like James is a much better bet than slobby Arthur. In the nick of time, Arthur grows into the knight errant of his dreams.
Thus far is classic henlit plotting. Bizarrely, I hesitated before clicking, although clearly women’s fiction is the natural home for this book. I was quite startled to be reminded anew just how much a man’s sex drive impinges on his everyday life. I had thought that the worst penis jokes running round the female internet were an exaggeration but no, not according to Arthur. The term cock-lit sprang to mind (if that offends, this isn’t the book for you). Martian authenticity is yet another reason why this novel stands out from the rest.
The two other narrators, Em and Malcolm, are neatly woven into the action. For a change four strong, believable characters drive the plot and not the other way round.
I’m sounding awfully serious about the book, whereas it’s actually very funny and I laughed a lot, particularly at the denouement. It’s just that comedians – and Andrew Clover is clearly a successful one – base their humour on some pretty acute observation of the human condition. And what’s going on in the Midgely household is uncomfortably close to home for many of us.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending such an enjoyable read.
For another man who tackles different courtship and marriage traditions with a light touch and great success try The Wedding Wallah by Farahad Zama.
You can read more book reviews or buy Learn Love in a Week by Andrew Clover at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Learn Love in a Week by Andrew Clover at Amazon.com.
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