10 February 2012
Book Review: The Stag and Hen Weekend by Mike Gayle
I've never actually read one of Mike Gayle's books before, but the concept of this book really interested me and I couldn't wait to get stuck in and see what it was all about. The idea of a novel being split in half was great, and I was curious how Gayle would be able to bring these two stories together and create a novel out them, without making them just 2 short stories that just happened to be linked by the fact the main characters were a couple. It's a really good looking book too, with 2 separate covers, a pink one for the Hen weekend story, and a navy blue for the Stag weekend one, and it's entirely up to you which you read first. I decided to go with ladies first, and after reading both can safely say you can start with either, but that the men's story was far more interesting!
As I said, I began with the girl's story so I will talk about that one first. Helen is marrying Phil, and to celebrate, she's going on a luxury spa weekend break with her nearest and dearest friends. However, Helen is starting to feel a bit wobbly about their impending nuptials, but doesn't want to disclose it to anyone. Moreover, when she meets someone at the hotel from her past, she's wondering if Phil really isn the man for her. While I liked reading the Hen Weekend story, I couldn't help but feel that it was a little bit dull and I found myself getting a bit too bored for my liking. Helen was okay, but I just didn't like her very much, and that didn't change as her story progressed and things occured. I wonder if Gayle being a man writing about a very girly weekend away hindered the story somewhat, as there was just something not quite right about it and I didn't find it all that readable!
However, I found the Stag Weekend story to be far more interesting and readable. It tells the tale of Phil and his mates on a weekend to Amsterdam to get ready for his wedding to Helen. Phil loves Helen and can't wait to marry her, but is worried she's having second thoughts. Therefore he decides to go to Amsterdam anyway, and try and enjoy the weekend. He doesn't, however, bank of meeting someone that is important to both him and Helen, and things spinning out of control. I liked Phil as a character, he was really well written and a believable male lead for the book. I was wanting to shout at him for some of his decisions because I knew he was making bad choices, but enjoyed the way the story progressed and things changed between Phil and the other characters in the book. The things the lads get up are typical Stag night things, and it was fun to read about, much more so than the Hen Weekend ones, again perhaps because Gayle just found it easier and more comfortable to write confidently about the male characters?
One thing that really did pull this book down for me was the ambiguous endings. I was wondering how Gayle would be able to pull off an ending because of the fact you could read either book first, and therefore the ending might be spoilt, but I'm someone who really likes things ended properly, all endings tied up in a bow and there being no real question marks. However, nothing is tied up here, it's left up in the air about what Phil and Helen are going to do and it left me frustrated. I wanted to know what Phil's decision would be and whether Helen would be disappointed, but nothing was clear. Also, there was no real interaction between the pair in the book due to the nature of the story, and therefore it was hard to root for them as a couple because we, as a reader, simply don't know how good they are together and whether they should be together. Therefore, it did end up feeling like 2 short stories that had been lumped together to create a novel, and I can't say it worked for me. Yes, I enjoyed the tales of the weekends, especially the Stag weekend, but other things just didn't work and I wouldn't personally go to read another book in this format, I'm much more a longer novel kinda gal!
You can buy The Stag and Hen Weekend in both hardback and as an eBook now!