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Customer Review

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Best a Man Can Get, 14 May 2006
This review is from: The Best a Man Can Get (Paperback)
I've always been fairly wary of the influx of "thirty-somethings relationship" books that seem to have bombarded the shelves at the local bookstore over the past couple of years or so. I have dipped my toe into this style of novel a couple of times and whilst some of my experiences have been very enjoyable (Nick Hornby, Tony Parsons) there have been some real howlers along the way as well (Ben Elton, Jamie Holland)

Having just read John O'Farrell's first book "Things can only get better" which is a light hearted and humorous look at life as a Labour Party supporter and really enjoyed it I thought I would give one of his other non-fact books a try.

"The best a man can get" is the story of Michael Adams who is finding the modern pressures of fatherhood all a little bit too much. With two young children already when his wife Catherine announces she's pregnant again it looks like this might be the straw that breaks the camel's back. Michael works as a composer of TV advert jingles, which does allow him the luxury of working irregular work hours, a theme which Michael takes to the extreme as he begins to spend more and more time in his bedroom studio located on the other side of London. His flatmates don't know about Michael's family life and Michael enjoying a pseudo-bachelorhood for half his waking life doesn't see any point in putting them straight.

As expected things are going to get a lot worse for Michael especially when in one of the most blindingly obvious plot moves ever Catherine finds out about Michael's duplicity.

OK, let's get the bad things about the book over with first. If you're a bit of a fan of this style of novel, or like me have read just a couple of other examples, then I'm still sure some of the passages you'll read will seem awfully familiar from other works of this type. There are no inspirational flashes of brilliance or ultra perceptive insights here although at times the writing may seem like there is. There's some rather clumsy and obvious plot development and things fall far too easily into place to suit the story at times, and finally there's just a touch too much fantasy about certain elements. I don't mean the actual story so much as the specific details; I'm sorry but a part-time bit part actress and a jobbing advert composer don't just "go and rent a 4 bedroom house in Archway", I'm sorry they don't, have you checked out rental prices lately!

Also I did feel a bit conned by the blurb on the cover and what the actual story was about. The blurb would have you believe that Michael is really leading a double life of married father on one side of the Thames and playboy bachelor on the other, when really all he does is work in a house on the other side of the river, with his wife's full knowledge it must be said, where the other house inhabitants don't know he's married and tends to stay there for a bit of peace and quiet slightly longer than is strictly necessary.

And the good points? Well it's certainly a very readable book, I zipped through it in one sitting and I doubt that even the slowest reader would make a meal of this one. It would be ideal as a holiday book for the plane journey or beach. And although I've criticised it for not being that original the style of writing is light and enjoyable and at time very very funny. John O'Farrell certainly has a nice style of writing and he draws the reader into his world very well indeed. Unlike some of the other reviewers here I found the book's characters to be on the whole very likable and it was refreshing to see that on this part at least Mr O'Farrell hadn't taken the easy stereotype way out. Yes Michael was rather over-anxious and slightly too whimpish in the style that modern writers would have us believe all men are, but at least Catherine was feisty and interesting and not just another beautiful vacant wife.

It's a good book and as I say, very enjoyable, but don't go into reading it thinking it will change your life or that it has a hidden message amongst the pages.
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Location: Thatcham, Berkshire

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