25 May 2009

Book Review: It's A Kind of Magic by Carole Matthews

Emma and Leo are complete opposites. Leo is unreliable, a bit childish and doesn't take life, love or his job all too seriously, yet his girlfriend Emma is strict, reliable, tidy and enjoys her life being in order.

This is why, when Leo turns up at Emma's 30th birthday drunk and incredibly late, she decides the pair are splitting up. But on his way home, a newly single Leo bumps into a lady on Tower Bridge named Isobel. Strange things then start happening to Leo and Emma, but neither can work out what is going on.

Emma realises she wants Leo back but is it too late? And just who is the mysterious Isobel?

I haven't read a Carole Matthews book before, so I was interested to see what her story writing was like, and how well she wrote her characters. As you can see from the plot, there are two main characters, Emma and Leo. You are meant to like both of these people, as opposite as they are, but I just couldn't warm to Emma as much as I could Leo. Although Emma is the character who is the most wronged, I just found her slightly annoying and a bit irritating, although I can't really put my finger on why! Despite all his bad points, Leo is the loveable rogue of the story, and it's his character which kept me reading the book even when in parts I was getting a bit perplexed by the whole thing.

I don't want to say too much about Isobel as I don't want to spoil it for anyone who is going to read this book, but she isn't the sort of character I would expect to find in an adult's novel to be honest. I can see that Carole Matthews has gone for a different type of novel here, but for me it just didn't really work properly. The main storyline is an enjoyable one, but it is the twist involving Isobel which made the story less believable and bordering a bit on the ridiculous, which is a shame. I like my novels to be a bit realistic, with good characters and a good writing style, but Isobel and her storyline seemed out of place in this book unfortunately.

Matthews' writing style is very likeable and easy to read, which made the book an enjoyable and pleasant read for me. As she had two main characters, she has used two different writing styles to differentiate between the two. This wasn't confusing at all, and actually made it easier in places for the reader. Emma's chapters of the book are written in the first person, so we get a much deeper and more personal look at her feelings, whereas the Leo and Isobel chapters are in the third person, like an observer's point of view. Despite this, Leo is well-written, and probably the most realistic character in the book, and his feelings and personality are well captured by Matthews. Leo's friends Grant and Lard are two fantastic secondary characters, likeable and very funny, and the friendship between the three is very touching, particularly towards the end of the book.

It's A Kind of Magic was definitely not what I expected from this well-known Women's Fiction writer, but it was still an enjoyable read all the same. It's a good basic storyline, one which has been done many times before but this one has a surprising twist, even though I myself wasn't keen on it. 'Matthews' clearly had strong ideas on where this book was going, and although I did enjoy it, the Isobel element of the book was just a tad too strange and out of place for my liking, but I am sure there are plenty out there who will love it! The book made me smile a lot, it is a happy and upbeat book, and this adds a charm to it as well. It's very well written, with likeable characters, good narrative voices and nice small chapters (93 in total in the book!), it's an easy and pleasant read.

Rating: 4/5

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