Monday, July 14, 2008

So Much More than Just "Chick Lit"

For about 2 years, I was a very prolific reader of "Chick Lit". My favorites were always the Brit Chick Lit. Although Marian Keyes is from Ireland, I have always lumped her in this category. That being said, I have never actually READ a book by Marian Keyes. I've always meant to, but it just never happened. Maybe that is why I was so surprised when I read This Charming Man (576 pgs, William Morrow). A special thanks to Michael Barrs from William Morrow for sending this one my way! I'm using this one for another check on my Pub 08 Challenge list.

The worst day of my life. When the first wave of shock released me from a fiendish grip, I couldn't help but notice that Paddy hadn't called me. Ominous. I was his girlfriend, the media was going wild that he was getting married to another woman, and he hadn't called me. Bad sign.

This story is told in alternating chapters by the women in the life of Paddy de Courcy, the head of the New Ireland political part. Smart, handsome and debonair, Paddy de Courcy has charmed the entire country of Ireland....and quite a few women to boot. From each woman's perspective, we can see how knowing Paddy has shaped their lives.

Lola is a stylist with an amazing fashion sense and purple hair. Excuse me. That would be molichino hair. She considered herself Paddy's girlfriend, even though there were very few times he actually took her out in public. After the news broke, Lola spent a week stalking Paddy trying to get answers. The best he could do was that his fiancee was going to be the perfect politician's wife...something Lola would never be. With her business taking a series nose-dive because of her obsession with Paddy, she decided to take a break and stay at a friend's cabin in a little remote village across the country from Dublin.

Grace is a reporter for The Spokesman. She is tough, breezy and full of spunk. And she knew Paddy when she was younger. The worked together in a bar right out of high school. And just when Grace had decided to make her move, Paddy met her twin sister, Marnie. Marnie was as opposite from Grace as could be: she is tiny, fragile and super-emotive, in a Sylvia Plath sort of way. Paddy and Marnie dated for a long time, before he broke her heart and moved on. Today Marnie is married and has 2 beautiful daughters, lives in a beautiful house, and has the perfect life. But she's hiding a horrible secret that could ruin everything.

Alicia is the fiance in question. Not a beauty, like most of Paddy's women, Alicia is a widow that is definitely the conservative, dependable type to be a politician's wife.

As I stated earlier, when I started this book I expected a light, breezy book that would cute and funny. While there certainly were some cute parts (mostly all from Lola.....Tranny Night is utterly hilarious!), this book hits on some extremely serious and complex topics, such as domestic violence and alcoholism. I loved the way the book was laid out, with each character's own voice telling how the suave Paddy de Courcy changed her life. (although I have to admit, Lola's chapters slightly annoyed me. As much as I loved her character, he "voice" was written in almost a short-hand sort of way. Made it a bit difficult to read sometimes.)

I'm always a fan of a strong female heroine, which is the reason both Grace and Lola appealed to me so much. Marnie played the victim too well, and it bothered me on some level. But her growth through the book was definitely the most dramatic. Paddy himself is only written through the eyes of the women, and Keyes has done an excellent job of taking him, making him this fantastic man, then peeling back the layers to see what is really inside.
There is so much more to this book, but I'd hate to give anything away. So, I'll leave you with this: although this certainly isn't a book for everyone, it was an exceptionally good tale of love, friendship, family, and heartbreak. And I am extremely glad I read it!! 4.5/5


Marg said...

I am a huge Keyes fan, although I wasn't quite so fond of this book. The voice of Lola took a long time for me to get to.

For other excellent reads, I would recommend the Walsh sisters series - Watermelon, Rachel's Holiday, Angels and Anybody Out There?. Another recommendation would be Last Chance Saloon too.

Of those my absolute favourites are Anybody Out There? and Last Chance Saloon.

Andi said...

I haven't read any of Keyes' stuff, but I've always meant to. Thanks for a great review!

Laura said...

I haven' read a Keyes book, but I'm still looking for 2 books for a chick lit challenge. This would definitely fit the bill!

Stephanie said...

Marg - As much chick lit as I used to read, I'm surprised I never read Keyes before. I will definitely take your suggestions though, and see if I can find some of her other books. I was actually very impressed with this one. Although I did want to slap these women at least once!! Lola just cracked me up, once I got past the writing in her chapters.

Andi - Thanks! Again, this is a book I don't think I ever would have picked up on my was actually sent to me by a publisher. But I'm pretty sure I'll be reading more by Keyes.

Laura - This would definitely make an excellent selection for the Chick Lit challenge!

S. Krishna said...

I haven't read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, but now I really want to. I noticed that a lot of the Amazon reviewers felt the way you did - after having read that book, City of Falling Angels was a disappointment.

Iliana said...

Ok, this book is going on my list! Great review Stephanie.