I’m not the biggest chick-lit reader in the world – I will admit to reading Flowers in the Attic in my teens, purely because my copy of Homer had been mislaid. That’s Homer the Greek philosopher, by the way, not the esteemed boozehound of Springfield. So when this book was suggested for the BBC I did have some concerns. Happily, all my reservations and prejudices were confirmed and this will, hopefully, be the last chick-lit book I have to read.
The plot, such as it is, revolves around Adele, a thirty year old, white, middle-class primary teacher driven by infidelity (and a sensible hatchback) to return home to a village outside Cork. Coincidentally her two bestest friends forever have also landed up there, one of whom (Jodi) is an embezzling cocaine addict who was a big thing in the City in London and wears very little clothing. The other friend (Carla) is, seemingly, Mother Earth with lots of kids, a surgeon for a husband, a maid from Hungary and who also looks ravishing in anything she wears (the heroine’s discussion of clothing takes up quite a bit of the book, I suspect some form of product placement or self-loathing).
Add in a handsome New Zealander come to discover his Irish roots who also happens to be a property developer and you don’t need to be Nostradamus to figure out whats likely to happen. The fact that the HNZ is a property developer helps set this book during the boom years (remember them, when we could afford lattes, au-pairs and John O’Donoghue). Seemingly, in this fictional part of the country you don’t need to bother too much with planning regulations or permissions to get your tasteless pile built, which is about the closest the book gets to real life.
The plot is pushed along mainly by arguments. Adele has blazing rows with her mother, her friends, her aunt, her prospective boyfriend, a bloke she used to have a crush on and her mother’s new boyfriend. Mainly because they’re all keeping secrets from her. But every time she gets close to finding out what’s really going on something distracts her (clothes mainly) and she forgets all about the argument, apologises and moves on to the next chapter. In fact, she is so pliant and willing to contradict herself that she comes across as a female version of Indecisive Dave from the Fast Show.
And I’ve never seen someone recover so quickly from drug addiction, O’Sullivan should share the secret with the HSE. All it takes is a bit of willpower and an ex-boyfriend and the problem is cured. A night spent in a forest (and being found by Adele using her BBF radar) is the tipping point for any addict (well, that and the promise of untold riches – not unconnected to the HNZ).
Which brings me round to one of the main difficulties with the book. Every problem is, at first, serious. But then it becomes downgraded to bearable, apart from the incurable cancer. Unfortunately, all the major problems revolve around Adele and she is just not a strong enough character to deal with everything that is thrown at her.
Then again, the book has a formulaic feel about it. There is an excerpt from O’Sullivan’s next novel at the end of the book and this stars a white middle-class woman living her life through arguments with her nearest and dearest. A quick look at O’Sullivans website shows that the formula, more or less, pays dividends.
Check out the rest of the BBC for other reviews – Lily, Jenny, Marion, Treasa, Cathy, Marie, Lorna, Val, Jenn, Edie, Catherine, Kirsty, Steph, Una, Susan, Winifred, Ann.
Read Full Post »