Tuesday, September 02, 2008

This Charming Man; Marian Keyes

Image found on Har per Collins

This Charming Man is a new release, published this year by William Morrow. Ms. Keyes is a well known UK based author who has a large backlist. I will say up front that TCM turned out to be a DNF for me. Between the cover image, the description on the flap and the content, I felt very mislead. Both cover and flap portrayed an upbeat positive story about women overcoming adversity, but I came away feeling outraged and sad and depressed. I’m very disappointed as this would have been my first Marian Keyes title. Leaving it unfinished left a bad taste in my mouth. I'm fully aware that both chick lit and women's fiction deal with serious topics and I'm not averse to reading them. I simply prefer not to be blindsided. When I'm looking forward to light & frothy that's what I want. I don't want a sneak attack, so to speak.

Honestly, I expected it to be about bonding and finding the strength to overcome hardship. Between my perception, right or wrong, that Ms. Keyes’ works were more along the lines of lighter chick lit or women’s fiction and the bright yellow (which equals cheerful in my mind) cover I thought the tone and treatment would be lighter. So I was unprepared for the abuse recovery issues the book is built around. Very unprepared. Physical abuse and the recovery from it isn’t a theme I would pick up on a whim. Bonding and overcoming obstacles? Certainly. The book was faced out on the new title shelf and I was drawn in by the cheerful cover and Ms. Keyes’ good reputation. I read the flap, which drops vague hints, but reading it, I felt deceived.

The story is written about several women whose lives have been profoundly affected by a well known Irish politician who has what Americans might call a ‘good old boy’ reputation.Yet this is a man who thinks nothing of manipulating, shaming, humiliating, raping and, yes, physically abusing the women who have the misfortune to become involved with him. That so many women have been sucked in by his false front is sad and threatening. That these women suffer from post traumatic stress disorders and abuse alcohol among other problems won’t surprise anyone. Ms. Keyes’ point that abuse knows no social, class, religious, political or economic boundaries is taken.

I had one or two other problems, but comparatively speaking they were minor and ordinarily probably wouldn’t have prevented me from finishing This Charming Man. I felt the prose was stilted because I missed articles such as ‘the’ and ‘a’ and ‘that’. I'm aware that grammar and word usage is different in British English, but this is the first time reading such a book I felt the prose was stilted. Even though one of the women is written as a fashion stylist, the constant brand dropping annoyed me. The other problem is that the last Irish set novel I read, Cecelia Ahern’s P.S. I Love You, also had a serious theme (grief, loss and moving on) and felt heavy in parts. I wanted something light and upbeat this time.

So, it was high summer when I tried to read this. Warm and sunny and happy. The book didn’t match my mood or outlook or what I was in a mind to read. It has little or nothing to do with Ms. Keyes. In the future I will do more research before buying or borrowing a Marian Keyes novel.


CindyS said...

Were there any funny parts? I think Keyes normally has comedic bits (okay, I've read two by her) even though her themes can be quite depressing. I think it was Watermelon where the opening is the pregnant woman being told her hubby wants a divorce. I didn't love going through her depression with her but she had a sharp wit. Course, there was the moment of stupidity that I saw coming and almost threw the book across the room but I guess I expect a bit more from my heroines than I do actual humans ;)


Bookwormom said...

Yes, there are some funny moments, actually. I was just too miffed to laugh at them. LOL ;)