Marian Keyes is known for her ability to explore tough issues with humor and grace. She does it again in her latest book, This Charming Man, as she covers topics of domestic abuse, alcoholism, and depression. The book tells the story of four women who, at different times in their lives, have been involved with Paddy de Courcy, a rising star in Irish politics. The novel begins with the announcement of de Courcy’s engagement to Alicia, a social climber who is somewhat of a mystery. When Lola, the woman he’s been dating for a year and a half, reads the news online, she is devastated and decides to leave town for a while to get over her heartbreak. Grace, a reporter, wants to find and interview Lola, and get her side of the story regarding the relationship with de Courcy. Grace knows there is a juicy story there because she and her twin sister Marnie have known de Courcy since they were teenagers and have a long history with him. Each woman takes turns narrating her story, and each describes a man who is very different from his public persona.
The thing I love about Marian Keyes is that she has the amazing ability to write authentically about emotional issues. When she writes about a sensitive topic like alcoholism, as the reader, you don’t just feel like you are reading about a woman struggling with a drinking problem, you feel like you are walking in her shoes and experiencing it yourself. Keyes has been public about her own past struggles with alcoholism and how she channels that pain into her writing, with remarkable results.
You are probably thinking that a book about domestic abuse and alcoholism sounds incredibly depressing, and the answer is yes and no. This Charming Man is emotional and much darker than Keyes previous novels, and the parts about abuse can be hard to read. While there are no laugh-out-loud moments like in previous books, the book definitely has a sense of humor and there are lots of inside jokes about Ireland. Lola’s experiences in Knockavoy are pretty funny, although she writes in a diary-style shorthand that is irritating. I also struggled to understand what made Paddy de Courcy so charming and why these women were attracted to him in the first place. Nevertheless, this book was totally engrossing and impossible to put down.
This Charming Man will appeal to fans of Marian Keyes. If you haven’t read her books before, I would recommend starting with one of her lighter books like The Other Side of the Story or Sushi for Beginners.
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