Watermelon – by Marian Keyes
I associate Marian Keyes’ books with a blanket, a warm drink and a rainy day, and I’ve read most of her books in years past. I’ve just re-read Watermelon, and since I didn’t remember it at all well, I got to experience it all again:
What Claire always hoped for was this: a gorgeous husband, a good job, a nice home and most recently, an impending baby. So far, so good. What she didn’t expect was for her husband, James, to leave her the day she wakes up after giving birth to their beautiful baby girl.
Heartbroken and reeling, Claire flees back home to Dublin with her parents and siblings, and slowly tries to figure out how to put the picture of her life back together without James but with her daughter, Kate. And things do get better – but then James returns, looking to slot back into the role of husband. Claire has a decision to make: does her life have room for a James-shaped piece any more?
The main reason I enjoy Keyes’ writing is how well she seems to understand her characters; their emotions, their reactions, their thought processes. She has a wonderful grip on the human experience, and in my case at least, that translates into a firm grip on the reader’s attachment to the story. I loved Claire, even while she moved through various stages of dealing with her loss, from the expected to the intolerable. I felt for her when she couldn’t figure out how to face the enormity of her future without James, who had been her constant. I felt for her as she experienced such a deep and abiding love for her daughter, knowing that no-one and nothing else would ever be as precious or important to her than Kate. And I felt the most for Claire when James came back and everything she’d been tentatively rebuilding was threatened.
The novel is not groundbreaking in content or plot line, but that’s not what I need from my beloved chick lit. I read these books for characters I identify with, for people I root for and for an experience I’m affected by. Perhaps because I was so invested in Claire’s well-being, I was infuriated during the penultimate chapters of this story! When James comes back, it doesn’t go exactly as one might expect. I’m not going to tell you why, because I’d hate to ruin the experience, but suffice to say that if you’re not impacted by their story Id be shocked. I also really enjoy Keyes’ conversational style. To begin with it was a little disconcerting to have the protagonist popping into the action with little observations made directly to the reader, but it soon grew on me and made me feel included in the story, invited into Claire’s life. This was (as always for Marian and me) a great read.
I’ll be revisiting more of Marian Keyes’ worlds in the near future. Have you met any of her characters?