Book: This Charming Man
Author: Marian Keyes
Rating: * * * *
The words ‘Marian Keyes’ and ‘chick-lit’ complement each other as perfectly as ‘cup of tea’ and ‘biscuit’. Chick-lit has, justifiably, become a byword for substandard, brain-free beach reading. Yes, it’s unapologetically aimed at women, and yes, plot after plot is recycled. But no such derisory criticisms apply to Keyes; she wears her chick-lit label as if it were haute couture.
Four women react very differently to the news that politician Paddy de Courcey is engaged to be married. The device of splitting the narrative between the characters is one which readers will love or loathe depending on their reactions to each individual. There’s enough recognisable formula , but it’s kept fresh with inventive, yet plausible, twists.
Keyes is renowned for her unrelenting portrayal of ‘difficult’ issues. True to form, the novel steadily unfolds into a harrowing portrayal of domestic violence, and the ‘Charming Man’ of the title takes on an ironic significance. The subject matter is upsetting, but thankfully Keyes is never heavy-handed.
Keyes’s latest is bound to be a bestseller, and, for many, essential beachwear this summer. It might be entertaining, but it is anything but vapid, and those in pursuit of something weighty to read will not be disappointed either.