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Too many messages - too few sympathetic characters
on 13 May 2014
I didn't realise when I requested this advance reader copy from NetGalley that this was one in a series but I didn't feel the lack of knowledge from previous books when I read it.
Emma and James come to London from Dublin as he has a new job coaching a rugby team. Emma is lonely and finds it difficult to make friends (I obviously move in different circles from her as no one has ever been as rude to me at the school gate as they are to Emma here - is it really realistic ?). She gets a job as a make up artist on her sister's make-over TV show and has to balance childcare with the demands of her job and the demands of James' new job. There is quite a bit of discussion by various characters of the various roles of men and women in childrearing and childminding - in fact, this is a topic of conversation so often I became very weary of it - I can acknowledge with the author that there are a lot of gender related issues but I did think that there was just too much emphasis on it here.
Emma is plagued by messages and presents from a stalker who claims that she is having a relationship with James and she finds this worrying, mistrusts James, makes a huge scene at his place of work and eventually chucks him out. The identity of the stalker is immediately obvious to everyone except the characters in the book (the clues are so unsubtle that the author must intend for the reader to be well aware who it is before the characters). I understood why Emma reacted the way she did to the stalker but I did think that she got very hysterical about it all (maybe because of the amount of alcohol that she drinks in this book which is quite astounding).
I had an issue with Emma's sister Babs from the beginning. She is a character who is supposed to be very forthright but in fact she is actually very rude. The way that she speaks to the children and what she tells them is wildly inappropriate - there is the possibility that the author intended this to be funny but I didn't think that it was. I also found some of the ways in which she referred to a gay character near the beginning of the book to be insulting and nasty - if I used the words that she did to refer to a gay person in my workplace there would be consequences which there are not here although she is supposed to be in the media.
The author is obviously exploring the whole idea of wanted and unwanted children, who should raise children, who should care for them, and when can one partner make demands on another about having children. She considers that some people may not want to have children and also the consequences to relationships of decisions which are made about families. She then considers the whole aspect of trust through the stalker incident and how lack of this can also affect families. This is a very issue driven book and I think that the story suffers for it. I thought that many of the minor characters were unrealistic and that Emma was a bit whiny.
On the whole, I didn't really enjoy this book as I found it difficult to sympathise with the characters and I was frustrated by the continual messages which I was being asked to consider.