This Charming Man by Marian Keyes

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This Charming Man by Marian Keyes

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Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Chloe Spooner
Reviewed by Chloe Spooner
Summary: One man - four women - one terrible secret. A fun story with different narratives offering an interesting reading experience, and a tale of revenge and finding your feet again.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 896 Date: April 2008
Publisher: Penguin
ISBN: 978-0718149123

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I haven't really read a Marian Keyes book before, I've tried one but couldn't get into it so I was a bit unsure about what to expect from her latest offering, This Charming Man. After reading the synopsis inside the jacket cover, I thought it sounded like it could be a great read, but I couldn't believe the size of the book - it was huge!

This Charming Man is based on four very different women, all living in Ireland and whose lives have been changed dramatically by one very charming man, Paddy de Courcy. Paddy is a politician and thinks of himself as a bit of a cad who can get any woman he wants. But Lola, Marnie, and Grace know the truth about Paddy. That he isn't as nice as his public persona leads people to believe, that he hasn't any respect for women, and most importantly, they're all united by a secret which just might come back to bite Mr de Courcy on the bottom!

The story is told by the four women in Paddy's life, and this made it somewhat different to most women's fiction books out there. There aren't chapters as such, more sections relating to each woman as they tell their story at a different pace. Firstly, we meet Lola, a stylist who gets a shock when her boyfriend Paddy's engagement is splashed across the media - only she isn't the woman he's marrying. Lola is convinced she can't get over Paddy and so flees to Knockavoy to her friend Bridie's cabin in the middle of nowhere. Lola is forced to come to terms with Paddy's betrayal, but Knockavoy holds a few more surprises for Lola!

Through Lola's story we slowly meet Grace, a journalist who is after Lola for her story on her relationship with Paddy. Grace, who lives with boyfriend Damien, works at a local newspaper, working on the odd story here and there. But Grace is also hiding a secret about Paddy, one she doesn't want to be revealed. Not only that, Grace is trying to hold her sister Marnie together, who is about to lose everything that matters to her. Marnie also has her own narrative texts, which make for quite harrowing reading and were not at all pleasant. The two sisters are very different, and the relationship between them was incredibly well written, surviving a range of obstacles and sisterly love coming through above everything. Lastly, we hear from Alicia, Paddy's current woman and the one he is soon to marry. Alicia loves Paddy dearly and is pleased to be with him, but is soon to find out just what their relationship is going to cost her. Is it really worth everything to Alicia, and how far will she go to keep Paddy?

As you can see, there are four varied characters, but the stories and different narratives work well within the book. As well as the different 'voices', each narrative has a different font within the book as well so it's quite easy to determine who you're hearing from. And also, the story from each person is written in a different style i.e. Lola's story is much more of a diary format in the first person, hearing directly from Lola. Grace's is much more a traditional story, being told in the first person but flowing freely as a story. Marnie on the other hand is very different from the former two, being told in the past tense and in the second person, constantly referring to Marnie from a 'fly-on-the-wall' perspective. And finally Alicia's story is told in the third person, much more of a story-type narrative once more.

There was one point which annoyed me greatly about this book, and at times actually affected my opinion and the pace of my reading it. Lola's diary-style entries were not written in full sentences, and this really grated on my nerves as I felt I was constantly filling in the blanks! It didn't flow naturally because of this, and I felt I had to really concentrate in those parts and I just couldn't get on with the style of it which was a real shame, as I really enjoyed both Grace's and Marnie's narrative's greatly.

The story was really interesting and kept me wanting to read on. Keyes has really written Paddy's character as the most hateable, and you really do hate him! All three main female characters were different but very strong despite what they'd been through, none of which was made clear until right at the end of the book. Lola's story added a real element of humour to the book which was welcome relief from the tragedy and sorrow of Marnie's story which was a very powerful and humbling read. Grace's story plodded along in the middle but managed to draw together the other two narratives in a simple yet effective way. The novel is well written but I just couldn't get past my dislike of Lola's writing style, however much I enjoyed the rest of the book! At nearly 700 pages, its a long book, and at times a bit of a struggle... A good read, but not an author I would hurry to read again.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

Further reading suggestion: Anybody Out There? by Marian Keyes or All We Ever Wanted Was Everything by Janelle Brown.

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Chriss Monks said:

I thoroughly agree with your comments and am glad I have read your review. I have only just started on this new Marian Keyes book, and have been a fan of hers for a while, having read several of her novels. However, after ploughing through the diary style first pages I have now lost the will to live. "Is it worth the trouble?" I keep asking myself, which is pretty difficult (talking to yourself and reading!) but after reading this review I will persevere and give Ms Keyes the benefit of the doubt.

Many thanks

Chriss Monks