THE BREAK – Marian Keyes
For many of us, author Marian Keyes is the godmother of “chick lit”. Speaking for myself, I have read all her books over the years and would describe myself as a fan. I pre-ordered The Break on Amazon some time ago.
Her latest offering is about Amy, a middle-aged Dubliner whose husband, Hugh, announces to her that he needs a break from their marriage. Like a “marriage holiday”, for 6 months. But he will come back, he promises, it’s a break, not a breakup. Just for 6 months, it would be as if Hugh was single. Amy is completely heartbroken but doesn’t give up on their relationship. However, a lot can change in a 6-month time frame. When Hugh decides he is done with his midlife crisis, is Amy ready to take him back?
This is “classic Marian” and doesn’t disappoint in many ways: the kooky family (I would say she is setting up for multiple books about this family much in the style of the Walsch sisters), the humour we have come to expect from her and the wonderfully complete side characters she creates without detracting from the main characters. Overall there is much to like about The Break. I also loved the relationship Amy has with her two daughters and niece who lives with them, which sometimes made me laugh out loud.
Most ratings of The Break have been excellent (averaging 4 starts) but I just couldn’t rate it as highly. Amy is a successful and attractive woman and it just did not ring true for me that she would in any way find Hugh’s behaviour acceptable. The author tries to evoke sympathy for Hugh, but they had three children dependent on them, with one (the niece) having a lot of emotional issues, and he abandons them. I just couldn’t relate to Amy’s acceptance and lack of red hot anger. I think it would have made more sense if he had an affair and moved out, rather than a ridiculous “gap year” where he pretended to have no wife or teenage children.
That said, this book is fun and light, and I would recommend it for a beach read or straight after you have read something harrowing for some relief!
Side note: The Break is an expensive book, at $32 for the kindle version.
A COLUMN OF FIRE – Ken Follet
A Column of Fire is the third book in Ken Follet’s Kingsbridge series. The first two, The Pillars of the Earth and World Without End (both get 5 stars from me!) are two of my favourite books ever, and I have read them both many times. Each of the Kingsbridge novels are set roughly 200 or 300 years apart and centre around the local people of the fictional Kingsbridge town, the priory and nunnery and the nobility.
As you may know from my review of the Philippa Gregory novel, I love this type of historical fiction, and find the Middle Ages quite fascinating. I was therefore thrilled when I found out that the third Kingsbridge novel was available. This book is set in the 1500 and 1600’s during Mary Tudor’s rule, through Elizabeth I to King James I. The main theme of the book is the battle between Catholicism and Protestantism, and between tolerance for other faiths and intolerance.
Ken Follet is masterful at weaving a storyline through many years and many characters. He is also good at creating villains and reflecting the lives of ordinary people. Traditionally, he has not written as much about characters who really existed. In A Column of Fire, he brings in real characters such as the Guise family, Elizabeth I, William Cecil and Guy Fawkes. Although I did like this, what made the first two novels really unique in my view, was the fact that they were about ordinary citizens. From the start, we have a good idea of how A Column of Fire is going to end because of its parallel with history. This parallel made the characters feel more distant and I am definitely less emotionally connected to them than the relatable characters in the first two books. That said, I do think it would have been difficult to write a third book in exactly the same vein without being repetitive, and the Tudor period is such a magnificent time to write about. There is more than enough fiction to keep the reader interested and as always, I was fascinated by the description of life in this time.
I would truly recommend starting this trilogy (if you haven’t already) and reading all three books – they are well worth it! If the Middle Ages doesn’t interest you, then the Century Trilogy by the same author that covers WW1 to the Cold War and is also masterful.
(RELATED POSTS: to see our previous book reviews, click here.)