05 June 2008

This Charming Man (Marian Keyes)

Available at all good bookstores, courtesy of Penguin Books South Africa

In my world, Marian Keyes is queen. She can do no wrong. Fiction. Non-fiction. Heart-breaking. Hilarious. And whatever she attempts turns into a cuppa hot literary tea: delicious, soothing, welcome – but bloody scalding if you sip too fast.

Despite my overwhelming bias, Keyes’ latest offering, This Charming Man, threw me totally. For starters, it has four narrators and four accompanying first-person perspectives. Not my favourite. Second, there are no Walshes in it. Sad, but forgivable.

But, while its usual fist-in-mouth humour still rolls across every page, there is more sinister grimness than I’m used to from this author; more pain, more anguish, more ugliness, more anxiety, more subtlety. And a plotline that is profoundly disturbing.

Nonetheless, I couldn’t put it down.

Paddy de Courcy, Irish politician and JohnJohn Kennedy-esque hunka-runka, is the charming man. And when he announces his engagement to the graceful (yet equine) Alicia, four women take it very badly. In different ways, for different reasons, and with different results. It’s a great story, but the undertone is undeniably hardcore.

My conclusion? Either Marian’s writing has grown up faster than I have and it’s up to me to keep pace – or I’m more of a softie than I thought. Go ahead - see what you think.


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