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VINE VOICEon June 18, 2008
From when I first cracked open WatermelonI've loved Marian Keyes, but at first it was a fickle sort of love, the kind reserved for light, fluffy books that were guaranteed to better my mood. This all changed with the publication of Anybody Out There?the astonishing last novel of Keyes that blew my mind (and my perception of her as an author) out of the water. Since then I've seen her as an extraordinary novelist in her own right, capable of drawing people in and invoking emotions you never expected to feel for fictional characters.

So needless to say when I saw she had a new novel coming out, I pre-ordered. I was hoping (desperately hoping) that it would be the next novel in the Walsh sister's saga, but apparently Keyes feels the need to string that out a bit more. Oh well. It's not like I haven't enjoyed her other novels. I decided to take a positive attitude about my disappointment.

In the end though there was nothing to be disappointed about. "This Charming Man" is an amazing book told by four distinct voices. Lola, a stylist, Grace, a reporter, Marnie, a working housewife and mother and Alice all have something in common that has changed and altered the course of their lives. His name is Paddy de Courcy and is hailed to be the political savior of Ireland. But though Paddy seems charming, suave, handsome and perfect on the outside our narrators know the secrets behind his smile-and the nearly deadly effect of his true charm.

"This Charming Man" is really extraordinary and unlike anything Keyes has written before. She's tackled tough subjects in the past, it's true, but the heinous nature of the depraved acts of violence and degradation described in this book take it to a new level that rises completely out of the genera of chick lit.

I raced through this book in one sitting because I was literally unable to put it down. The storyline is exciting and fast paced and despite the shared narration and seemingly random inserted scenes of domestic violence between parts the novel (which make sense eventually) it has a wonderfully cohesive plot that all comes together through our four very real heroines. This book made me laugh out loud, cry and more importantly think on the desperate situation that so many women are forced to live in because of domestic violence.

I'm not saying this book is a downer though. While it discusses very serious subjects there is a great deal of humor, mainly provided by Lola's diary (which in spite of the semi-annoying shorthand was my favorite part of the book) romance comes from Grace, and eventually, strength from Marnie. And triumph for all.

This is a truly amazing novel that any author would have been proud to write. I congratulate you Ms. Keyes on another remarkable book that made me loose sleep and I highly recommend that everyone reads this book.

Five stars.

(And I know it'll be another two years at least but I can't wait `till her next novel!)
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on July 3, 2008
I am a big Marian Keyes fan, but was very disappointed in this book. I commend the effort that went into writing it and the premise was good. However, the delivery was uneven, with several characters barely fleshed out. The book was dark and depressing, with barely any humor. The character of Lola, written in "shorthand" English, was difficult to read and disturbing to the flow of the book. I understand that Keyes was trying to differentiate Lola's voice from the others, but it resulted in virtually unreadable chapters. The ending was too tame, for the crimes committed. I am glad that I borrowed a library copy, as I know I will never want to read this book again. Let's hope Ms. Keyes "lightens up" for her next book and brings us the funny Irish tales we all enjoy.
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on July 6, 2008
Like other readers, I have read ALL of Marian Keyes' books. This one was not up to snuff. Several things annoyed me about the book. (CAUTION: Spoiler Alert!) First, I loved the character of Lola, but really felt that the "diary" style of writing was overly distracting and made the episodes on Lola's life quite stilted.

Second, the U.S. version was "Americanized" with a forward by the author explaining why we are all too dumb to understand the differences between the 2 major political parties of Ireland, Fine Gael and Fine Fail. Rubbish! Give us a break. Perhaps this was an editorial choice, but it also rubbed me the wrong way. Half the fun of a Marian Keyes novel IS being taken to Ireland! The slang throughout is kept intact (badgers arse, skangers), as well as some rather "inside" jokes on regional riffs,(Kildare bypass?)but female readers of "chick lit" must be too stupid to understand politics...shame on you!

Finally, and this may be just me, but as a person who survived a physically abusive relationship, I found the reactions of the survivors a bit hard to swallow, except perhaps Marnie and at times, Lola. Would they REALLY not be able to send this idiot to JAIL??? C'mon, he put at least 3 of these women in hospital and terrorized and physically tortured the others. The "comeuppance" scenes were the hardest to swallow, as I can't imagine any of these women wanting to make the effort to confront him WITHOUT contacting police or authorities in any way. When they at last find the courage to do something about his violence, the resolution is very unsatisfactory.

Fired? Kicked out of his political party? Where is the indignation and reason here? His most current "conquest",Alicia, is cast as a sort of "villain" when actually she is under his spell too and has just been "branded" by him at the end of the novel. And, yes, as another reader commented, his character is NOT charming at all. Keyes' does get the weird perverted part of his behavior, and even his motivations, but the masking CHARM that goes along with many an abuser is NOT well portrayed here.
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on July 21, 2008
I agree with some others who have given this book a middling review. I've never read any other Keyes books, so I can't speak to how this one compares.

My main comments are: 1) I agree with reviewers who say the story of the first narrator, Lola, is written in a very annoying way that seems to ape "Bridget Jones' Diary" for no good reason, even when she's quoting others. 2) This book is very Irish, meaning there are lots of references here that may seem foreign and a little puzzling to the American reader. And 3)It is too long and slow in many parts.

Having said that, I'm not sorry I read it...just glad that I borrowed it from the library rather than spending close to $20 for a very disposable summer read.
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on June 18, 2008
I won't bother to recount the plot; lots of reviews on here have done that. But I do want to say a few things...

Though this is very different from Keye's other work, I have to commend her for tackling very difficult subject matter and still giving me something to laugh about.

Many reviewers are giving this book bad reviews because it's not the fluffy chick lit that we have come to expect from Marian Keyes. I think this is one of the books strengths.

Keyes is moving away from the chick lit genre and is moving into new territory. It's always a daring thing to do when you have a fan base that expects something from you and has expectations from your work.

Either way you tell it, This Charming Man is grim indeed but Keyes gives us something to laugh (and cheer) about in the end.

So take a chance. You won't be sorry.
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on April 27, 2016
I know that this would be a great story, and I am bitterly disappointed in the short, sharp, incomplete sentences used. I just couldn't read on as the repetitive use of this writing device felt like I was being hit by a hammer. I even tried finishing the sentences in my mind as I read, but that is not enjoyable either. I did persevere for awhile, hoping that the writing style might change, but I lost patience. I hope that this story might be re-presented at some time, using a different approach.
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on August 16, 2008
I have listened to virtually every Marian Keyes book, but I couldn't bring myself to finish this one. It's too graphic and disturbing. Perhaps if I was reading it I could easily skip the physical abuse, rape, and descriptions of battered women, but I'm not sure I could stand reading this either. Not for the faint of heart, or those expecting anything resembling her other works.
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on April 22, 2009
It's a little shocking, and a lot annoying, how many people are posting reviews of this book without reading it first. You can't review something you've only read twenty pages of.

Lola's bits in the book are written as a journal, which is why they all have timestamps for their entries, and why Lola's style is shorthand. Lola does not talk that way, she _writes_ that way.

On to the story: This book was definitely difficult to read. It was absolutely brutal in a lot of places - Paddy's abuse and Marnie's alcoholism (and general stupidity) in particular. Marian Keyes has dealt with heavy stuff before, but this is really tough.

The problem I had with the book is that nowhere in the book do we get a sense of what makes Paddy de Courcy so charming. He is anything but, even when he's not beating women. He's smug and pathetic and cruel, not charming. Although, as I wrote that I started to believe that Keyes chose that title sarcastically.

Grace and Lola were the most likable characters, and I wouldn't mind reading separate novels about each of them. Although I was horribly bothered by the out of nowhere renaming of Ibrahim as "Osama" in Lola's sections. Ibrahim as a character did nothing other than be Muslim to earn that nickname, and it was very offensive and distracting to me every time I read those parts. Marnie was disgusting, weak, and pitiful, and in no way did I feel one bit of sympathy for her at any time in the book. Alicia was never really fleshed out and really didn't deserve any sections in the book.

I liked the book while I was reading it, and got really excited for the climax, but it was just so unsatisfying. Paddy's comeuppance was so mild compared with the horrible things he had done, and we were also left knowing that he was just going to keep right on doing them, as illustrated by Alicia's hand. Very, very disappointing. I didn't expect anyone to kill him or anything, but he was not sufficiently punished in my opinion.

I always enjoy Marian Keyes' books, and I enjoyed this one, but it could have been so much better, as she's shown us before.
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on March 7, 2016
This is the MOST tediously boring book I think I have ever read!! I started skipping forward at 16 percent after reading nothing but incomplete sentences, which were stupid and frustrating. I had to give up as it became apparent that this book was not going anywhere.
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This is the story of four women who all have a connection to Irish politician Paddy de Courcy (the "charming man" who gives the book its title). It focuses chiefly on three of them: Lola, his girlfriend, who is shocked and devastated to hear on the news that Paddy is engaged to someone else, Marnie, who had a relationship with him several years ago and Grace, her twin sister, who also has her own reasons to dislike Paddy. The true nature of their relationships with Paddy and how it has affected them will emerge slowly over the book.

One problem is that Paddy never comes across as being even remotely charming. It's evident from the outset that he's a two-timing womanizer, whose idea of a first date is taking a woman to an adult shop and watching through a peephole while she tries on underwear. Classy. The book's revelations would have had more impact if he had been portrayed in a better light at the beginning.

The book alternates between the perspectives of the different women. Lola's sections are written in a "Bridget Jones's Diary" style. She is a scatty and vapid character who writes in a particularly irritating form of Pidgin English, saying things like: "Paddy is politician. He is powerful man" or "What she mean?". It's distracting and annoying to read. Thankfully Marnie and Grace are far more sympathetic and likeable characters. While Lola is there to provide the light relief, Marnie's story is particularly dark and so convincingly written that it had me close to tears on occasion.

I struggled to know how to rate this book. It's longer than it needs to be and takes a long time to get going. I felt that it could have been heavily trimmed without losing much. The Lola sections were also a negative for me. But I liked the way the story twists - just when you think it's terribly predictable, it goes in a different direction. It kept me interested throughout and it comes together well at the end. It's less light-hearted than Marian Keyes's other books (no laugh out loud moments here), but it's still an easy read and for me, a more rewarding one. 3.5 stars.
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