Men I've Loved Before by Adele Parks
|Men I've Loved Before by Adele Parks|
|Category: Women's Fiction|
|Reviewer: Katie Pullen|
|Summary: Natalie and Neil have never wanted children but when Neil decides it's what he now wants, Natalie is anything but keen. Can they make their marriage work now they disagree on something so important? With true to life characters and an unusual plot, this is romantic comedy at its best.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 384||Date: July 2010|
|Publisher: Headline Review|
Natalie and Neil are an average thirty-something aspirational couple, living a comfortable life in West London. Having agreed before they married five years ago that they never want children, a chance remark from one of Neil's friends quickly changes his mind. Suddenly being a dad is all Neil can think about and meeting severe resistance from Natalie he tries many methods to persuade her. Feeling under huge pressure, Natalie seeks refuge at her parents' house where she discovers her old address book, or little black book as it became known when she was single. Inside are the old addresses of Natalie's ex-boyfriends and as she reminisces Natalie starts to wonder if Neil is indeed the one, or whether it was just good timing that resulted in them getting together. As Natalie decides meeting up with her exes is the best way to see if indeed the one slipped through her fingers, Neil embarks on a seedy new hobby and the two practically stop speaking to each other. Will they be able to save their marriage?
What I immediately liked about this novel is the central characters of Natalie and Neil and it's Parks' acute observations of real life that makes these characters jump off the page, making them the sort of people you might live next door to or could be friends with. They are a modern couple with their feet on the property ladder and both have promising careers, but like most couples past a certain point in their relationship their life together has become one of routine. Although they still love each other very much, they are used to a settled and ordinary life together including their sex life, which I'm sure most readers will recognise and indeed have a laugh at. They both clearly have some growing up to do though in how they handle the issue of parenthood and at times I wished they would just sit down and be honest with each other, but this might have made the novel rather short!
Parks gives us both Natalie and Neil's perspectives on parenthood, their marriage and life in general. Although Natalie seems to be the more important of the two characters it feels right that Parks gives us Neil's thoughts and feeling too so that the narrative is balanced and the reader can understand what each are going through as they struggle to deal with Neil's desire to be a dad, and how as a couple who never had secrets they become experts in not communicating with one another.
Parenthood is something that most of us will consider at some point in our lives and is the key to Park's plot as it becomes the starting point in Natalie and Neil's soul-searching story. It is interesting though that it is Neil who suddenly finds his biological clock ticking rather than Natalie, and refreshing to read a male perspective on parenthood. The idea that a couple not wanting children is also explored as it has become something of a social taboo even in the enlightened times we live in, so much so that Natalie resorts to lying about her ability to have children just to shut people up.
Natalie and Neil's friends also feature throughout the novel and Parks cleverly weaves their stories into that of Natalie's and Neil's with ease, demonstrating her polished skills as a writer. The narrative also jumps backwards and forwards regularly as Parks fleshes out Natalie and Neil's backgrounds and jobs as well as their story. This may sound confusing but by avoiding a linear timeline the narrative comes alive, rather then just plodding along.
This may sound like quite a serious book, but Parks ensures there is plenty of light relief and laughs throughout, such as Natalie's meetings with her exes and Natalie's friends who are either obsessed with getting married or getting pregnant and have frankly gone a bit mad. Her writing is full of wit which makes this infectious and exemplary read all that more enjoyable.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.
Further Reading Suggestion: If this book appeals to you, you may also enjoy Tell Me Something also by Adele Parks.
You can read more book reviews or buy Men I've Loved Before by Adele Parks at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Men I've Loved Before by Adele Parks at Amazon.com.
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