I finally finished Marian Keyes book The Other Side of the Story and I liked it. Hmmm, let's say a B- ( remember I am trying out those + and - things) which I should admit, is fantastic for a book that is not about romance and has little to no sex ;) I am willing to throw my neck out there and say that this is Chick-lit, or women's fiction or you know, just fiction. So a HEA is not guaranteed and one of the characters, at least for me, was still in the pain near the end of the book and even though it is alluded to that she will survive and move on, it is still bittersweet to leave her where she is.
The book has three characters whose lives have bumped into each others but, the story is not about the women's relationship with each other but, with the men in their lives.
Gemma Hogan, a wonderfully professional events organizer, gets a frantic call from her mother saying her father has left her. Gemma is trying unsuccessfully to deal with her mother's grief, her father's betrayal and the loss of 'the love of her life' to Lily, a woman she considered one of her best friends. Gemma's story is how an affair affects the family left behind. In between hating her father and missing her father she is dealing with a mother who has become clingy and dependent. Add to that a new man in her life who she insists on treating like temporary escape and a best friend who forwards her e-mails (Gemma's fantasies about how life should be like for her father and his new sex kitten and her mother with a Latin lover) to a literary agent Jojo Harvey.
Jojo Harvey, is a literary agent who has been playing in the big leagues and is angling for partner at her firm. She's also madly in love with the managing partner Mark who is married with two kids. Turns out, Mark is mad for her also and they start an affair. Jojo is the other woman and Keyes does an excellent job of showing how love can just happen regardless of the consequences. Mark and Jojo's relationship is further complicated by career ambition and I *think* internal sabotage - I had to re-read a section to understand what had happened but then I blame this one on my not understanding the ins and outs of british terms. ( on that note, what is a coal scuttle - Gemma bought one and was way enamoured of it? I keep thinking it's just a bucket. )
Lily is almost the anti-thesis of Gemma and Jojo and is a newbie author. Self-confidence is not one of her strong suits and she is too passive in her life, but then, who hasn't been guilty of that. Lily was a good friend of Gemma's and when Gemma's love Anton left her, Gemma beseeched Lily to meet with him and get to be his friend so that Lily could spy on him for her. The first time Anton and Lily meet it is obvious to them both that they are each other's *the one*. I loved that scene. At a time when Lily should have been flushed with joy, she was assaulted with guilt and this guilt after 3 years is part of what can destroy her and her relationship with Anton.
I'm horrible with book summaries because I want to give you an idea about the book but I definitely do not want to spoil any of the story lines so I think that what I have written will be enough. Here's a link to Amazon Canada and it's blurb. (Bloody hell, that's not the cover I have on my book! I am completely stumped at the number of different covers I have seen for Keyes' books!)
So, what did I love about this book.
First, Gemma and Jojo are interesting characters who actually have jobs that they have to do! Unlike many of the romance or suspense books out there, this book is about the day to day lives of these women and the fast pace of their careers is part and parcel. Both women come off as patently capable in any situation. Also, getting to read about *those* people who make your job difficult and Gemma and Jojo's responses to them is truly fun. So yeah, there may have been a bit of glamorizing going on with the job descriptions but, there were also pitfalls and stresses over clients and what bosses would think.
As for Lily, I did not really warm up to her because she came off as a very unhappy person. And maybe she was and this is where I am unsure. Lily was constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop so instead of being pro active and making tough decisions she kinda floated about letting Anton make all the decisions. Now, let me say right here that I absolutely adored Anton and it is easy to see why Lily fell for him. What you don't get to see is Lily showing her love to him. I guess I was befuddled about what it was about Lily that Anton loved but maybe that was because Lily was the narrator for their part and seeing as how she felt so much guilt about her relationship with Anton it was unclear about what was special about her.
In point of fact, I loved all the men in the book (except for Gemma's dad) even when they were doing something hurtful to others. I guess it is the romantic in me that believes that everything has to work for two people in love. In truth, it doesn't and this book is not a romance like I normally read and yes, I knew that when I picked it up so I wasn't surprised by the ending of each story but, I was a wee bit sad for a few of the characters. (No, I won't tell you which ones) Also, there is that part of me that wonders about certain resolutions in this story - more to do with Gemma's family. It was definitely unsettling for me.
Then there were those moments that make me, as a woman, cringe and Lily outdid herself on this but then one of the other women decided to jump off and do some weird stuff. Yeah, it worked out and I could have seen this resolution eventually but, I found this character's actions to be rash, illogical and poorly timed. It was like watching someone make an ass out of themselves when you know they are so much better than that. So that is where the book really suffered for me.
On a different note, as much as I enjoyed this book, I don't see myself ever wanting to re-read it. Weird. But then, maybe it's the romance reader in me.
So yes, I am a looking forward to reading another Keyes book and should probably pay more attention to those who are making chick-lit recommendations. But hey, if you want to make some recommendations, I do prefer more humour with chick-lit. It doesn't have to be a laugh a minute but, I might like to try something lighter the next time around. I have read Sophie Kinsella's First Shopaholic book which was definitely funny but, I had a hard time relating to the heroine because her denial and subsequent bad behaviour was long in the tooth.
There we go, my first review and the first time I have ever read a book with 648 pages - phew! Makes me want to pull out that Dorothy Dunnett or Diana Gabaldon book that I haven't read yet.
Actually, it doesn't.