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This Charming Man: A Novel

1 rating: 3.0
A book by Marian Keyes

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Tags: Books
Author: Marian Keyes
Publisher: Avon A
1 review about This Charming Man: A Novel

No Sympathy for the Devil

  • Feb 20, 2011
Rating:
+3
Anyone accusing Irish author Marian Keyes of being a chick-lit figure could not be farther from the truth. In "This Charming Man," Keyes writes from the heart about some downright serious issues that take the reader as far away from the usual fare of man hunting, narcissism and shopping as possible while retaining a light entertaining style that keeps the reader turning the pages without the need for a double dose of antidepressants. Nevertheless, as readable and un-put-downable as this novel might be, it stands as a cautionary tale for women everywhere who are sadly and incorrectly convinced that their fixated and highly concentrated involvement with a man will in some way change the spots on the proverbial leopard.

The "man" touted in the title is the high profile politician, Paddy de Coursey, a handsome rogue with an entourage of women and plenty of selfish little secrets and machinations that put him at the forefront of any list that includes the world's most celebrated sociopaths. As readers, fortunately, we are not privy to Paddy's inner mindset. Instead, we see him gradually through the eyes of his ex-girlfriends and briefly from the perspective of the woman who has proudly snared this beast within what she thinks is the forever trap of marriage.

Using a technique of changing point of view with each chapter, Keyes picks up the story as newspapers around the country announce Paddy's upcoming nuptials. Each of Paddy's girls are given a chance to voice their reaction to the future wedding and move forward from that milestone on separate timelines that invariably intersect with that of Paddy's--past, present and future. From the start, the reader enters each of the girl's personal emotional space without knowing the "why" of how each "ex" got to that place or the "what" that ties all the women together.

Keyes does a fine job of giving each of the women a different voice. Lola speaks with a sloppy precision that calls to mind the `molichino' colored hair highlights and hip clothing with which she convinces herself as way too cool to be seen on the wife of a political party head whether he dumped her or not. As the street-smart journalist, Grace tells it like it is, but smolders with the inner rage of any protector of the innocent. The saddest voice is that of Marnie, the too sensitive alcoholic that must anesthetize all feeling rather than face her inadequacies. Fiancee Alicia makes two short appearances as the gal that is not quite in the same "know" as the other women but is quickly learning the hard way.

As a recovering alcoholic, Keyes writes the substance abuse sections of this novel from the perspective of having been there. Here, passages where Marnie expresses her desire to find solace in drinking and the company of others who share her addiction resound with a poignancy that cries out for compassion yet still disgusts the reader with its dire descriptions of the drinking lifestyle. Those who have crossed paths with alcoholics will recognize the mindset and will understand it better yet still retain the mixed emotions of regret, sadness and pity for those too weak to come to terms with the truth of their addiction and see what they look like within the eyes of others. In her portrayal of Marnie, Keyes makes it clear for all those do-gooders out there that the only person that can "help" an alcoholic get their life back on track without the sauce is the alcoholic. Feelings of anger and inadequacies resulting in the inability to get the alcoholic to change are wasted activities. The alcoholic may or may not decide to stop drinking, but that is solely the responsibility of the drinker. Remarkably, Keyes depicts the interaction between Marnie and her sister Grace with great understanding and much realism. Only by letting Marnie go, does Grace allow Marnie to see how feeble and out-of-control she truly is.

Of course, "This Charming Man" ends on a high note which given the storyline may not actually be realistic especially in the short time span depicted. However, the happily-ever-after ending does round out the story, allowing a certain smug comeuppance to the women who find strength in their number and once the issue of Paddy subsides in their psyche are able to move on and find something more. The positive new beginnings of each of the women give hope to the reader that despite the most terrible of relationships, he/she can overcome the odds and trudge on unscathed.

Bottom line? Marion Keyes' novel "This Charming Man" recounts the subhuman aspects of a rogue that are anything but charming. Depicting the psychologically bereft lives of three women who have been brutalized by a narcissistic egoist, the story throbs with pain that through time and certain discoveries gradually dissipates and becomes a steppingstone to a fresher existence. Fascinating and compelling, the novel moves along at a pace that forces the reader to turn the pages in order to get to the point where certain factors come into focus and the full extent of "this charming man's" activities are sadly disclosed. Although author Keyes finishes off this read with a happy ending, throughout the tale she adamantly reminds her female audience that the two-legged leopard never changes his spots no matter what hopeful torch his delusional partner might carry. Keyes's portrayal of the alcoholic's mindset is both real and telling. Recommended.
Diana Faillace Von Behren
"reneofc"

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