Saturday, February 6, 2010

Book review: The latest offering from Marian Keyes

Title: The Brightest Star in the Sky
Author: Marian Keyes
Publisher: Michael Jospeh/Penguin Group
Year of publication: 2009
Page extent:612

I finished reading the latest offering from Marian Keyes earlier this week, and I have been putting off doing a review for it for the past five days or so. Why? Because I fear I will have to write something I never thought I would say about one of Marian Keyes’ books: I…didn’t really like it. And I am a huge fan of this author - I devour her books when they are released, and usually enjoy the hell out of them.

Should I duck for cover so that the internet flaming can begin?

Maybe I’ll just get on with the review.

The Brightest Star in the Sky is about the tenants in an apartment building at 66 Star Street in Dublin. There’s Katie, a 40 year old woman who works in the music industry. She’s dating Connall, a complete workaholic. Then there’s a snotty girl in her twenties called Lydia who rooms with two Polish guys and drives a cab full time. Matt and Maeve are married and oddly disconnected from each other, and Jemima, the elderly woman who lives alone until her grown up foster son, Fionn, comes to stay.

Then there’s this….thing floating around, giving its first person narrative on all the occupants of the flat and while it’s interesting at first, the narration carries on far too long, interrupting the actual flow of the storyline.

Essentially, it boils down to this: Lydia is narky and angry at the world because her mother is suffering from undiagnosed health problems, Katie and Connall break up because surprise surprise, Connall is a workaholic. Jemima is a crabby old lasy with an annoying dog, and Fionn is a gardener from the country side filming the pilot for a gardening show, and he gets sucked into the celebrity lifestyle.

So, this thing that’s floating around gives the reader an inside look at what’s going on, and I suppose it’s supposed to be a different way of just narrating the story in the third person, but I found it really irritating. The little tidbits and teasers in these peoples’ lives really don’t amount to much of anything and take pages and pages to actually become part of the story, and because of the amount of characters in the book, nothing seems to happen for a really long time.

I understand that Keyes was trying to create one of those stories where there are a million seemingly unconnected characters whose lives intersect with each other and they don’t realise it until the end, but because of the amount of people coming and going there just isn’t that anticipation of what’s going to happen next. I also didn’t really buy a lot of the connections that were made between the characters, and felt like sometimes they were used to keep a particular person relevant to the plot when they really didn’t need to be there at all.

The final big moments happen in the space of about fifty pages, which, in a six hundred page book is fairly late in the game for bombshells to be dropping left, right and centre.

Overall, I just really did not enjoy this story. It often felt tedious and too conveniently orchestrated to feel like a natural progression of the storyline. I much prefer it when Keyes sticks to the hilarious Walsh family antics. This book really lacked Marian's usual humour and vivacious characters. This is definitely a book you can live without reading.

In a word: Meh.

Sidenote: I do like the cover though - the blue and white is quite striking. But Keyes' covers are always great.
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