24 November 2009
Book Review: The Brightest Star in the Sky by Marian Keyes
Lydia lives with Polish men Andrei and Jan, but can't stand either of them... not to mention the problems Lydia is having with her own mother as well. And Jemima lives with her lovely dog Gurudge, but is sure she feels the presence of something hanging around the house of 66 Star Street. Just what, or who, is watching these people? And will the secrets that bind them ever come out?
Marian Keyes is one of the most successful chick-lit authors of all time, yet strangely I have only read 2 of her books. I loved Watermelon, one of her earliest books, but her last release This Charming Man just didn't do it for me. So it was with trepidation that I decided to try out her latest offering which has probably been the most anticipated books of 2009. It's had numerous cover designs posted all over the net (some loved, some hated), but finally the book had its British release at the end of last month, and I couldn't go into a bookshop with seeing Marian's gold shiny book everywhere. I got my copy from the library as I don't buy hardbacks and quickly sat down to read it.
I have to admit this book was a real struggle for me. At over 600 pages long, it's a very large book that requires the reader to put in a lot of time and concentration to read, so I was hoping it would be good enough to hold my attention that long, but I was sure it would because it was Marian! But straight away, I disliked it, and sadly that continued throughout the whole book until the last 50 or so pages when I felt the whole things managed to pick up a bit but enough to move the book into 4 star territory for me. It seems authors are trying to branch out in their material to try something different, and Keyes has almost taken the lead from Cecelia Ahern by introducing a magical element into the book, but I just felt it didn't work here at all.
The narrator, who we don't find out the identity of until almost the end of the book, is somewhat creepy and doesn't feel magical at all, just somehow wrong. It adds to the creepy and unsettling tone of the whole book - there is not a whole lot of happiness in this book at all and I think that is what made me struggle to complete it. I knew nothing good was going to happen, only that things would get worse for the characters. I found Matt and Maeve's story in particular quite harrowing to read, and the shocking conclusion of it all was a bit too much for me. Katie, my favourite character of the book was the only good thing for me, and the only believable character. Conall was unlikeable, and I bet most readers will struggle to identify with him. Fionn was an awful character, Rosie was easily forgetable (I actually did forget her in parts), and Jemima was another of the greats, but they just weren't enough to save this book.
There were too many characters to keep track of throughout the book, and I wasn't entirely sure why there was a countdown of days throughout the book. Clearly we were headed towards day 1 but why - what was going to happen? I wasn't altogether sure I cared that much, and that's a fundamental flaw here. I hadn't guessed the narrator until the point I think we were supposed to realise but many have claimed they guessed it - when I did realise, I was a bit flummoxed by it because it was slightly odd and seemed like it had come out of nowhere to be honest. The chapters are relatively short so the story keeps going at a good enough pace, but I do feel it could have been 200 pages shorter and therefore more succinct and perhaps better reading.
Yes, I have to admit I am really disappointed with the latest offering from one of Ireland's greatest authors, and I am glad I decided to wait to get a copy from my library. It isn't something I can recommend you go and buy, but if you're a fan of Keyes, you'll want to read this. However, if you've never read Marian before - DO NOT start with this one, you probably won't want to pick up another of her books. Amazon reviewers also seem split on this - some love it and some hate it, and sadly I just couldn't get on with it at all. It was just too depressing and painful to read, and while elements of the book showed promise, it just didn't work for me. Such a pity!