My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I was telling my daughter-in-law recently how I give all the books I review either three, four, or five stars, because I don't finish the ones I would rate as one or two. This Charming Man nearly fell in that latter category. A great deal of time was spent developing the stories of Lola, Grace, and Marnie. Grace wasn't in bad shape, but the other two women were hard to take. Lola and Marnie were both struggling in their work because they were in such bad psychological states they couldn't do basic tasks. There were also other reasons why I wasn't enjoying the book. Paddy de Courcy, who was the title character, wasn't in it very much and all the other male characters seemed horrible. I thought Marian Keyes must hate men.
Then the book took a few turns and I found it well worth reading. One of the men whom I had seen as abusive turned out not to be violent but instead was supportive to his wife until he was forced to make a hard choice. I sympathized with him rather than hating him. Other male characters began to appear who were decent people. Circumstances allowed Lola to change her life long enough to get to a better place emotionally. Meanwhile Marnie's situation was explained further, so although her life continued to spiral down, I could appreciate why.
This novel has one of the best descriptions of alcoholism I've ever read. It shows the disease in detail from the point of view of the alcoholic and also from the points of view of the people who love her. It also covers the victims of domestic abuse in a way that helped me understand why some of the women stay in their situations. After reading the way Keyes covered these two issues, I was able to understand the weaknesses of the victims and appreciate their strengths.
Lola's chapters were written in a strange, journal voice I found annoying. Most of the pronouns were dropped, along with words such as the and a. After I got used to it, I could ignore the style. But I still believe it was a bad choice, one that detracted from the novel.
This Charming Man isn't an easy read, but in the end it's well worth reading.
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