10 July 2009

Book Review: This Charming Man by Marian Keyes

marianthischarmingmanThis 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, and I will be trying some more Keyes books in the future.

Rating: 4/5


  1. I've read this one about a year ago and I'm afraid I've forgotten most of the details, but I do remember that this novel both made me laugh as well as nearly cry - a typical MK, quite serious stuff but packed but still so funny, I love that combination!
    It's funny how you didn't like Lola's diary-style entries whereas I loved them, I just her narration even funnier due to this and I enjoyed filling in the missing bits of full sentences. Hehe, just shows how tastes differ!
    What I remember not liking though is the whole drag queen thing, I didn't care for it at all (plus it was quite bizzare).
    I'd probably rate it 4/5 too - it was really good, but not as amazing as Angels or The Other Side of the Story, which I adored. On the other hand, a friend of mine claims this is the best MK novel ever! Taste difference - you gotta love it. ;)

  2. I'm just reading this book now and I'm on like 200 pages but struggling with it :-( which is a shame

  3. Finished this book a week ago and didn't really understand it till the end which is such a shame :-(

  4. i have read this book before about a year ago. i found that reading it the first time made me understand what some people go through. also how in one book there can be different structures throughout. i am studying for english a level literature and am now studying the book in depth. i have found that by re-reading and also analysing this book that my mind has been opened up to a whole new world and perspective that i didnt have before when i was reading the book. :)