Kategoriarkiv: Keyes, Marian

The Mystery of Mercy Close – Marian Keyes

keyes_mercy_closeSince I read everything Marian Keyes publishes, it was only a matter of time before I got around to The Mystery of Mercy Close (when I’ll get around to blogging about This Charming Man – Excellent! – and The Brightest Star in the Sky – Charming. – is another question entirely). As it is when the book circle met before the summer and everyone presented their suggestions for summer reading, two of us had Keyes in our pile (though my pile was virtual, I was badly prepared). And so it ended up on our combined list almost by default.

Things were looking grim, though, until I got out of the funk, fiction was not pleasing me at all. However, I got out somehow and finished The Mystery of Mercy Close, well, not in record time, but certainly quite quickly.

In other words, it’s highly readable. My friend Linda said she had a hard time getting into it because she’s stuck on the other Walsh sisters’ depictions of Helen, but my memory is bad. I mean, really, really bad. It leaks like a sieve. This is one of the reasons I reread, after all. Anyway, I remember Helen being mentioned, obviously, but that’s it. So I found her rather intriguing from the start. She doesn’t «belive in love, fear, depression or hot drinks». She is sour, misantropic and sarcastic.

I have a habit of taking instant dislikes to people. Simply because it saves time.

(Page 72.) She is also distinctly weird, and you can see how she would rub her sisters quite the wrong way, in fact she would rub most people the wrong way. Life in a presumably regular-sized Irish (lower?) middle-class house with 6 other people (parents and four sisters) must have been hellish for someone like Helen.

The fact is that the human race has survived for a very long time (way too long, in my opinion; they can bring on the Rapture anytime they like)

(Page 184.) Anyway, I like her. She’s prickly, but I can feel quite prickly myself on occasion. It will be interesting at some point in the future to reread the other Walsh sisters’ books and see how Helen is actually viewed by them. I must remember to take notes or something, though. (Memory. Leaks. Sieve.)

The Mystery of Mercy Close is partly a classic mystery, Helen is, after all, a private investigator and partly a love story, but it is also very much a book about depression. And it’s the latter that demonstrates, yet again, how Keyes at her best manages to describe the indescribable. Actually, this is not Keyes at her absolute best (Rachel’s Holiday is probably her masterpiece and I also really like This Charming Man), she fails to make me feel what Helen is feeling and there are times I would like to shout «Oh, snap out of it!» even though I know perfectly well that would be quite pointless. What Keyes does manage to convey, though, is the variety of utterly unhelpful reactions someone with depression may expect to encounter in their family and friends (one of which, incidentally, is the «Oh, snap out of it!» thing).

Additionally, the mystery part is compelling, why HAS Wayne Diffney disappeared? The descriptions of boybands, their stereotypes and more especially of the desparate measures old and decrepit boybands might take, are hilarious, as are the scarily accurate analyses of how the originally uninterested general public reacts with the right sort of PR.

As for the love story, the publishers have done the book a disservice by presenting it as some sort of love triangle struggle in their synopsis on the back of my copy, anyway:

When a missing-persons case draws her into the dark, glamorous world of her dodgy ex, Jay Parker, Helen finds she’s seeing more of him and less of Artie Devlin, her sexy detective boyfriend. Caught between smart, stable Artie and chaotic, up-for-anything Jay – two different, equally enticing men – and plagued by her own black doubts, Helen finds she’s beginning to believe in something. But is it fear or is it love?

Sure, there is baggage with Jay and sure, he’s moving in somewhat glamorous circles right now (hardly that glamorous, though, mostly washed-up ex-b-list celebs) and dark? Hardly. And the caught between two men, thing, as a plot? I’m so over it. I was put off by this description and had it been an author I liked less it might have prevented me reading the book. As it is, and I apologize if this is a major spoiler for you (stop reading NOW if you’re intrigued by the love triangle!) Helen is never even close to considering getting together with Jay again. The story with Artie is interesting, however, though it plays a fairly minor role in the grand scheme of things.

In conclusion: Not Keyes’ best (but far from her worst). Definitely worth reading, though.

Incidentally, for the best description of what depression feels like that I have ever read (take into account that I have never experienced clinical depression and therefore cannot judge its accuracy from the inside, so to say, just it’s usefulness in understanding my fellow humans’ behavior) can be found in Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole and a Half.

A long weekend in Dublin

That’s what we had last weekend. And, obviously, a few books came home with us.

From the Oxfam Bookshop:

  • No Worries – Mark McCrum (2€)
  • Great Bus Journeys of the World – Alexei Sayle and David Stafford (2€)
  • Travels with my Radio – Fi Glover (4€)
  • Just As Well I’m Leaving – Michael Booth (5€)

From Eason:

  • Started Early, Took My Dog – Kate Atkinson
  • The Brightest Star in the Sky – Marian Keyes
  • Eating Animals – Jonathan Safran Foer
  • Germania – Simon Winder

From an outdoor book market:

  • Memoir – John McGahern (4€)
  • A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole (4€)
  • The School at the Chalet – Elinor M. Brent-Dyer (4€)

From Pocketshop at Arlanda on the way back:

  • The Worst Date Ever – Jane Bussmann

April, May and much of June

I swear I meant to write proper posts on some of these. However:

Police at the Funeral – Margery Allingham
Showed up in my mailbox as a sort of birthday present – bookcrossing style. A quirky and charming read and definitely an author to look out for later. I still haven’t quite decided who next to «inflict» this on, I think it takes a certain kind of reader… Hm.

Portnoy’s Complaint – Philip Roth
A little dreary, but good in its way – I think its supposed to be a little dreary, to be honest. Recognisable and not so recognisable themes of guilt and shame, religion and upbringing.

The Chronicles of Prydain – Lloyd Alexander
A reread occasioned by finding the first three books in Norwegian second-hand by chance.

Sputnik Sweetheart – Haruki Murakami
Also a bookcrossing copy, my suspicions that I’d like Murakami in novel-form was confirmed. A perfectly beautiful – though quite sinister – book, and very hard to put down once you’ve started.

Under the Duvet, Angels and The Other Side of the Story – Marian Keyes 
A three for one sale on Marian Keyes paperbacks, and these are the ones I came away with. Under the Duvet was entertaining, but possibly a little too light-hearted for my taste (even the pieces dealing with serious issues such as alchoholism somehow felt light-hearted, something Rachel’s Holiday – the novel dealing with the same issue – doesn’t). I realised, shortly after having started it, that I’ve read Angels before. Nevermind, I didn’t remember how it would all end and it was worth a reread (even if I still don’t really like the ending. Bah). The Other Side of the Story was, uhm, not quite up to Keys’ usual standard, I don’t think. I think partly it was the narrative form I didn’t like, it was slightly too disjointed to suit the overall style of the novel (or me, possibly).

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox – Maggie O’Farrell
Received from Tonbel, who grabbed the chance to get rid of some books while I was there. Most of them ended up bookcrossed, but this one she suggested I read, and I’m glad she did. The main problem with this book was that it was at least 400 pages too short. I wanted to know more, much more, and it left me (internally, I was on the bus) shouting «But what happened next?» Not that the story is unfinished as such, just that the characters were compelling enough to make me want to read more. I think I will have to put the books O’Farrell mentions as helpful when researching on my tbr list.

I’ve probably forgotten something here, oh well.

Since the middle of February

The Tale of Desperaux – Di Collofello
Very sweet. Not exceptionally good, though, and with an underlying sort of morality which bothered me. Since I rather like rats I objected to the description of them being so nasty to look at and touch (especially in comparison with mice, which are, apparently, not nasty at all), but I can understand how it might be necessary for the story. However, I can’t quite excuse the idea that a rat is a rat and can never change his nature, it smacks – to me – a little of the I’m-trying-to-be-politically-correct-but-I’m-a-racist-really premise that all, say, negroes are lazy, but it’s in their nature and they can’t really help it. Balderdash.

Small Wars Permitting – Christina Lamb
Very interesting, highly readable. My father just finished this when I was trying to get through Sorting Out Billy (see below) and there was no competition, really, I jumped at the chance to read something else. Lamb manages to be both informative, profound and thought-provoking and at the same time laugh-out-loud funny in places. The book contains both newly written context material and quite a few of Lambs articles from various papers and both are equally readable and absorbing. Highly recommended.

Then, a bit of a Durrell reread going on – in between all the other stuff – if I find the time and energy I might write a more detailed post on Durrell, but for now, here’s a list:
The Bafut Beagles – Gerald Durrell
Fillets of Plaice – Gerald Durrell
The Stationary Ark – Gerald Durrell
A Zoo in my Luggage – Gerald Durrell
Catch me a Colobus – Gerald Durrell
The Dunken Forest – Gerald Durrell
Himself and Other Animals – David Hughes (biography)

Sorting Out Billy – Jo Brand
I read only the first half, or thereabouts and then gave it up in disgust. Abysmally bad, actually.

The Book of Lost Things – John Connolly
Entertaining, slightly scary in parts. Well worth the time.

Anybody Out There? – Marian Keyes
Excellent. I was a little worried, not being a great fan of spiritualism and trying to speak to the dead, however, Keyes managed the issue beautifully, I think, and I didn’t cringe even once.

Slam – Nick Hornby
Hornby’s first «young adult» novel, which probably should be compulsory reading for most British teenagers as a sort of literary contraception. Not Hornby’s best book – by far – from an adult point of view, but then that’s hardly the right point of view for judging it.

American Gods – Neil Gaiman
Superb.

A Ramble Round the Globe – Thomas Dewar
Disappointingly unoccupied with whisky or with advertising, the two main reasons I am interested in Tommy Dewar, but a rather interesting read nonetheless.

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid – Bill Bryson
Just what you’d expect from Bill Bryson: Very good.

Angels

In which Robin shouts: Oh, not again!

angles.jpg

Why do these people keep doing this to me? Why do they keep spoiling a perfectly good read with a crappy ending? Why?

I like Marian Keyes’ books, I really do. And getting to know more of the Walsh’s – though I must admit to not realising Watermelon and Rachel’s Holiday were connected until bits of Angels started sounding very familiar – is a good thing. However, that is no sort of excuse for this behaviour. Having a «happy ending» that involves forgiving adultery is a bit alien to me (it’s what Pilcher did, too, in Starting Over), but at least I can accept that people think differently on that subject, but from a narrative structure point of view you can’t have a happy ending which involves someone the reader never has a chance to get to know (also alarmingly like Pilcher), I’m sorry, you just can’t.

Get a grip, Keyes (and Pilcher).

(To be left in London, I’m not carrying this home for love or money.)

Watermelon – Marian Keyes

Having a break in Middlemarch (because I couldn’t be bothered to carry it to Scotland with me), I reread My Family and Other Animals and The New Noah by Gerald Durrell, partly because they are both good, but mainly because I had spare copies which meant I could «lose» them along the way. Hopefully they’ll be picked up and enjoyed by someone else.

While on the last chapters of The New Noah, I conveniently found Marianne Keyes’ Watermelon in a PDSA charity shop in Helensburgh on the 26th and had read it by the 28th. It’s a very good read, entertaining and reasonably light (without being Mills-&-Boon-fluffy) and definitely of the feel-good variety. However, I don’t think it’s one I’ll want to reread (as opposed to Sushi for Beginners), so I left it in the B&B in Dufftown. My bags were stuffed in any case.

I came home to find The Road to McCarthy in the mailbox. I had completely forgotten that I ordered it from The English Bookclub to avoid receiving the editor’s choice, and so was A. pleasantly surprised and B. mightily relieved that I had not bought it while in Britain (despite looking at it in bookshops several times, I kept thinking «Nah, later»). Middlemarch will have to wait while I laugh my way through this on the bus.