Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Good, The Bad and The Dumped – Jenny Colgan

This book surprised me, and in a good way.

A few minor quibbles first. The blurb on the back I found a bit misleading, because the implication is that she goes off tracking down her exes after her current bf breaks off the engagement, but in reality the order of events and causality is rather different. Secondly, I don’t like books where the main conflict is basically caused by the MC (who is invariably female – helpful gender stereotyping be damned) is TDTL (Too Dumb To Live). And finally, relationship problems that stem only from the characters not communicating and thinking the worst of each other by default don’t make a good story (how ever realistic that might be).

The good news is that none of those three things come close to spoiling this book. Yes, FMC Posy does have the odd TDTL tendency (with a name like that, how could she not?) But she also has bigger and more credible problems. When her boyfriend proposes to her, she is struck by a sudden uncertainty – is this really the man she wants to marry, or just the person in whom she’s taken refuge after a previous disastrous relationship? This causes her to undertake a mission to seek out her three significant exes (there’s always three, aren’t there? Not counting Jacob Marley, of course).

This I found both believable and interesting. Likewise the furtive manner in which she goes about it, which ultimately leads to catastrophic misunderstanding with her fiancé. At which point the book touches on the other major pitfall, where I was willing her to just try to explain to him what she’s doing. To be fair, with hindsight, maybe it’s understandable that she can’t, but I didn’t feel that when I was reading it.

The three exes are for me the best bit of the book, as she goes through a process of coming to terms with who she is and where she is that finally takes her to the wedding of a man whose name she has not even been able to pronounce since their break-up. Once we get on to exes two and three the book’s structure beds down too, and the way we learn about each in turn makes sense. (I felt towards the start there were slabs of backstory I wasn’t quite ready for).

It’s only after Posy has confronted ex number three that the book veers off course, as having realized that her (by now ex-) fiancé is after all the man for her, Posy is put off telling him this by another stupid misunderstanding until a somewhat overdone romantic meeting with champagne in the rain. A few chapters here I think could have been cut, but given what preceded it I was willing to plod through them. And finally we get a happy ending.

Another staple in chic lit (a term which, as I’ve commented before, I do not use in a derogatory way) is Posy’s pair of bizarre friends Leah and (her sister) Fleur. Although very funny, they both turn out to have a little more depth when needed, and I liked in particular the touch of Leah, forever wearing insane extreme fashion clothing, designing for Posy a tasteful, simple, and brilliant wedding dress.

Then there’s the story of Posy’s parents, which is key to her character but feels a little stereotyped (parents divorced, dad remarried and estranged, but turns out not to be such a bad guy after all – could be a lot worse). I guess for the author this is a key theme of the book, but for me the most interesting bit was the way Posy has been affected by her own relationships and how she needs to somehow put each of them, and the expectations they have left her with, behind her in order to accept the man who has proposed to her.

And that is why I liked this book.


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