Paddy de Courcy is an up and coming politician in Ireland. Hailed as the JFK of Dublin, his charm and good looks have made him a household name and political crush of many women (and men). Some of these women include the novel’s four narrators: Lola, Grace, Marnie and Alicia. But their recollections of Paddy show a very different man than the one the public sees.
Marian Keyes lends her trademark humor and incisive wit to a story about four women who have more in common than they originally think. Told in alternating perspectives, this story about the healing process, moving on, and dealing with the aftermath of a sociopath offers a little something for everyone. The problem is that it’s overwritten and suffers from an indecisive tone.
By far the most interesting narrative voice is that of Lola, a woman who finds out that Paddy is done with her when he publicly announces his engagement to another woman. Forgoing all articles in her speech, Lola’s parts of the story are an obvious (and hilarious) sendup of the Bridget Jones style of diary-writing. Her story about fleeing to a coastal town to hide out and get over Paddy is by far the book’s most interesting and fresh of the four stories, and the exploration of transvestism is an added bonus.
The problem is that Lola’s bits are frequently very funny, which clashes awkwardly with the book’s more serious moments. Paddy is a total monster, and as his abusive behaviors towards these women are slowly revealed throughout the novel, it makes it all the more jarring to read the humorous parts in conjunction. This is compounded by the fact that too much of the novel is spent dealing with Marnie’s struggle with alcoholism. All of this confuses the reader on what is supposed to be emphasized throughout, causing the book to lose much of its focus and point.
Having four narrators and thus four different stories also means that the novel is overly long. It also starts to feel too long, and would have benefited greatly from heavy editing. There’s some good stuff here, including a redemptive (if a little implausible) ending, but it gets bogged down in its own issues. It’s likely to attract some fans of Keyes’s previous work, but it also isn’t the novel to start with if a reader is new to her work.
This Charming Man by Marian Keyes. William Morrow: 2008. Library copy.