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R&R 035 | Watermelon

Marian Keyes
Watermelon
First published in: 1996
This edition: Arrow books, 2005
Cover illustration by Lovisa Burfitt / Agent Form

I was going to do the ice-cream pint thing at first, but decided I'd rather reflect on break-ups AND reading a less-than-good book, hence Sadface-Kaat.

To be quite honest, after reading Angels (R&R 012; leading lady Maggie Walsh), I wasn’t too eager to start this one, but it was in my bookcase and so I had committed myself to reading it. Besides, out of all the ‘Walsh sisters’ books I have read so far, two out of three were books I found to be original and moving (a big step up from chick lit); I was hoping for three out of four. And the timing was perfect; I tend to stuff in a light and fluffy read when I’ve had my fair share of harder books.

In Watermelon, that fourth book in the Walsh-saga (though not the fourth to be published; but the first), Claire has just given birth to her first child. Claire’s husband’s first reaction? To take off and abandon them both to be with another woman. Classy.
Claire is devastated, and turns to the only place she can think of: her parents’ house back in Dublin, where slowly she tries to return back to life after that nasty, nasty break-up.

Anyone who has ever been dumped – myself included, some years ago – can relate. The feeling of being dumped, rejected, has been put on paper very well – the anger and confusion have been touched upon rather well, too…

…initially.

This book was definitely quite readable and has some humoristic elements, as is usually the case with Marian Keyes (who has a talent for comedy), but the funny is submerged underneath piles and piles of Claire’s negativity. The novel and Claire were both uninspiring, yet here I was hoping to read about a woman’s strength as a single mother. Instead it had to be about relationships. [Insert sarcasm.] Great. Back to regular chick lit.

Claire almost immediately meets Mr. Perfect – which is annoying to me because it’s realistic for some, but not nearly for everyone. There goes relatability. The constant gushing over Adam’s appearance irritated me beyond measure, because it caused me to have traumatic flashbacks to Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight”, where readers are reminded of Edward’s “beauty” on every single page. We get it, he’s model material, yawn, let’s move on.

The whole idea of Claire-meets-Adam ruined the rest of what could have been a really great book. I would have preferred it if Claire worked on herself first, build up that mother-daughter bond with her kid and then meet Adam, not meet him first and then have her behave like a complete arse all the time to everyone around her (and subsequently have her whine about it more times than I care to count). Claire was going through a hard time, yes – but she was perfectly fine thinking about Adam, Adam, Adam and his firm butt or whatever. Her somewhat passive behaviour towards her new-born child came across as selfish as opposed to understandable, and the one-liners became a lot less funny.

I just really didn’t give a crap about this whole Adam thing.

I thought Keyes would be able to write about being a single mother in a relatable and convincing way, but she didn’t go in that direction much. Pity. Claire was just another one of those chick lit women, needing a man in order to have a happy ending.

I must add that although Watermelon wasn’t quite as disappointing as Angels, it still wasn’t so very different. Keyes does not venture outside of her comfort zone, and I’ll repeat what I’ve said in my earlier review: Keyes can do better and I expected much more. She’s beginning to bore me; I’m waiting for something truly new and refreshing from her. I have liked the Walsh sisters so far, but not enough to read another one of Keyes’ books.

2.5/5
Not including a penalty of -0.5 for “Twilight” flashbacks.

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R&R series (and its photos, reviews) © Karin Elizabeth 2008-2009

R&R 012 | Angels

Marian Keyes
Angels
Penguin, 2003
Cover illustration by Lovisa Burfitt
482 pages
Flickr post


Ah, chicklit. The word reminds me of my former worries of having to face a future where I’d surely end up an old spinster with twenty cats. The times when I would comfort my single self by watching “Bridget Jones’s Diary” repeatedly and by burying my nose into cheesy chicklit novels – instead of going out there and making things happen for myself. (Oh, the sabotage.)

Apart from reading The Devil Wears Prada, the only other books I’ve read lately that fit the chicklit genre have been books by Marian Keyes. She writes these fun, easygoing beachbooks with a humane and realistic undertone; her books touch on serious subjects without forced sentimentality.

Her main characters that I’ve read about so far have not been the typical ‘Clueless, clumsy London girls’, feministic on the surface yet always ending up with the man they initially despise (but then realize is ‘The One’). Basically, chicklit according to Marian Keyes does not mean butchering the “Pride & Prejudice” formula, while adding in as much contrived humor as possible.

In “Angels”, Maggie Walsh (the goodie two shoes of the five Walsh sisters Marian Keyes regularly writes about) is forced to regain her individuality after realizing her marriage of nine years with Garv is over. Maggie decides to leave him and embarks on an adventure which brings her to visit her friend Emily, a scriptwriter living in Los Angeles, where Maggie gets to do things she otherwise would never have done.

I guess having read it all now, all I have left to say is: well, colour me unimpressed.

“Angels” didn’t manage to move me as much as “Anybody Out There” or “Rachel’s Holiday”, books about two of Maggie’s sisters (respectively Anna & Rachel Walsh). The main character just wasn’t interesting enough.

And that’s really disappointing coming from Marian Keyes, whom I always considered to be an author sharing the flaws and emotions of her main characters. Maggie throughout most of the book remained a bit of an incoherent and shallow character.
What drove her to do things a certain way? That wasn’t known until the very last sections of the book, which is not a good place for character building. Keyes was too late in giving her heroine some depth, because she was apparently more concerned with describing haircuts, lesbians (yawn) and Emily-on-the-phone-with-producers-oh-the-drama.

This book for the larger part focused on Maggie’s experiences in the Hollywood scene, starring one unsympathetic stereotypical character after the other.
Jeremy Piven in “Entourage” is all the ‘Hollywood’ I can stand. Especially now that I’ve read this.

As I continued reading (yes, I managed), La La Land really became the most boring location I can think of – the desert would have been a more interesting place – and the nearly 500 pages of the book ended up being a drag to get through in order to reach an ending which wasn’t satisfying, but the only logical way to go.

This book was not horrible in itself and it was entertaining at times, but “Angels” came dangerously close to being the kind of clichéd chicklit I tend to avoid nowadays. There is much more to Marian Keyes.

So I leave you with three recommendations: leave "Angels", try “Rachel’s Holiday” and do watch Jeremy Piven in "Entourage". Seriously.

2.5/5
March 16th 2008

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Copyright © Karin Elizabeth. All rights reserved. This photo is public only so you ("the public") may view it; it is not to be used as free stock. Use without written consent by the author (that would be me) is illegal and punishable by law; I will take action. This goes for blogging, as well. So, contact me beforehand if you are interested in using this image or any of my others (non-)commercially.

R&R series with photos and text © 2008 Karin Elizabeth.
Please contact me if you'd like to use this review.