This Charming Man
When reading about marriage in a book of fiction you expect to find a magnificent celebration of spiritual and emotional connection between two people, Marian Keyes forces you to think again. When the engagement of politician Paddy de Courcy and his social climbing fiancée Alicia is announced; Lola, his secreted girlfriend, is not the only woman to be surprised. In This Charming Man, Marian Keyes keeps you guessing through a carefully structured multi-character narrative which details the journey of four women trying to heal the damage put upon them by the same power hungry, albeit charming man.
Although mainly based in the claustrophobic, perceivably too small city of Dublin, Keyes characters also transport us to their emotional and physical places of escape and healing. Feeling as if you are being placed in the midst of a celebrity magazine, there is no moment when the reader is left feeling as though the drama is over.
Lulu, the purpled hair stylist who believed she was dating Paddy, commences ‘This Charming Man’, heart-broken and bewildered. Living in a modest apartment in Dublin; she is forced to take an extended holiday in the sea side village of Knockavoy, where saving her business from destruction is her main objective. Little to her knowledge, the unassuming village of Knockavoy has some surprises of its own. Shortly thereafter Grace, a ruthless feature writer for the Spokesman, is introduced. Seemingly invincible and happy with her fellow journalist partner Damien, the reader is left in disbelief when her secret is revealed, unveiling a woman with the common sensitivities of the average female. It is then, just as the reader feels as if the story is somewhat disconnected that Keyes; the master of surprise, weaves her story telling magic and introduces Marnie. Marnie, Grace’s London based sister who is facing the demons of her alcoholism and the same secret as her sister, manages to frustrate the reader to the point where the other dysfunctional characters come as a relief. Creating further links, Alicia, Paddy De Courcy’s new fiancée becomes an all too familiar and painful memory to sisters Grace and Marnie. Keyes utilises her cross-narrative style brilliantly to ensure the reader understands and empathises with the characters, irrespective of their idiosyncrasies. So with all these women’s stories carefully intertwined, the question that loomed was, what could possibly be the secret linking them all together?
Through this thoroughly entertaining novel, Keyes not only manages to demonstrate all facets of the human condition, but she also brings to light the dark and mostly hidden problem of domestic violence. Obviously well researched, her portrayal of women suffering from the after affects of abuse is not only chilling but also frighteningly believable. Like many of her other books, This Charming Man is definitely worth the read.
By Georgia Kelly-Bakker
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