herald

Sunday 17 December 2017

Persistence, betrayal and love amongst the runner beans

You, Me and Other People By Fionnuala Kearney Harper (2015) €16.99 HHHHI

The thirst that exists for women to read their own stories shows no sign of quenching.

Fionnuala Kearney's first novel is rich in detail and full of twists.

Inspired perhaps by the duelling narrators in Gone Girl, this proposes to be an emotional thriller, the crime being adultery, with the fallout the focus.

Gillian Flynn took the unreliable narrator trope to its height; whether Kearney was attempting to employ this device in the same way is debatable.

If so, it doesn't really work. If not, it doesn't really matter that much, as it's very clear whose side we're meant to be on.

It's the second time that Adam has betrayed Beth in their 20-year marriage, and she's had it.

discovery

Kicking him out of their idyllic home, the work-at-home song-writing mum embarks on a journey of discovery.

The opening is quite breathless, as it is written in Beth's own voice, and it takes some time to find the character in the turbulence of the emotions.

Adam's narration, by contrast, is equally confused and pained, but with a thread of unearned 'poor me' winding throughout. Or is it unearned?

When the secrets start to pile up, it strains the credulity. Still, it's a good read, despite incorporating too many plot points, and I will genuinely be looking out for her next.

The Unexpected Consequences Of Love

By Jill Mansell Sourcebooks (2015) €17.99 HHIII

I love some Mansell, so was dissatisfied with this. The setting is perfect - a hotel in Cornwall, how can you go wrong with that - and the cast of characters is diverse, and everyone in the book gets a Happily Ever After.

Getting three HEAs for the price of one should have notched this a couple more stars, but the flatness of the lead couple stole them away.

Sophie is a photographer and Josh is the grandson of the owner of Mariscombe House.

They meet just about on page one, and Josh is immediately taken with Sophie and doesn't hesitate to ask her to for dinner.

Sophie brushes him off and continues to do so over many, many pages: she's had a terrible experience in the past and she's off men forever. Why he keeps after her, and works so hard, when she isn't that much of a charmer is mystifying, and his persistence starts to feel a bit stalkerish.

Meanwhile, two more couples are also sorting out their futures: Josh's grandparents, Dot and Lawrence, and Sophie's pal Tula and charming surfer Riley.

The former's story is clunky and slows down the trajectory of the story; the latter is actually quite fun and adorable and I wished it had more presence.

Ivy Lane: Spring

By Cathy Bramley Random House (2015) €10.50 HHHII

Tilly's got a big secret in her past that has overwhelmed her with grief; having moved to a new town, she gets an allotment in order to keep her mind off things, and to keep her contact with humans under her control.

As a newbie, unfortunately, she ends up needing the help of her fellow gardeners, including Charlie, a hot fireman (is there any other kind?).

It's enough though, to want to find out what happens next, even if Bramley's storytelling technique (like Mansell's, above) does less showing than telling.

Second Life

By SJ Watson Transworld (2015) €16.99 HHIII

Watson made a splash with Before I Go To Sleep, which was made into blink-and-you'll-miss film starring Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth. Fans of the previous book may find that the emotional tension never reaches the same fever pitch.

Julia has been raising her sister Kate's son since his birth; as Julia and her husband Hugh were unable to have children, and Kate lacked the maturity for motherhood, this worked out well for everyone, and each had the chance to live their best lives. Or had they?

Wish You Were Here

By Catherine Alliott Penguin (2015) €15.99 HHIII

When Flora's GP husband James aids the ailing young daughter of a famous opera singer, the wealthy (and sexy) star rewards him with a free holiday in a château in the South of France.

The chance to get away from their crazy, anxiety-filled life is too much to pass up - except for all the anxiety-inducing and crazy things that happen while they're away. Alliott does deliver several laugh out loud moments, but it's all too exhausting to be truly enjoyable.

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