13/06/2005

PS I Love You

This book has been remarkably successful. Cecelia Ahern is a new author, yet her debut novel has hit international bestselling lists, and is apparently going to be made into a film. Having said that, I don't generally opt to read bestsellers, particularly when they're not in the so-called 'chick-list' genre. However I came across tihs book second-hand, and decided I'd try it. Review on Amazon UK, Ciao and Dooyoo are mostly pretty impressive, and I don't like to be too narrow-minded about my reading tastes.

I thought it started well, and the concept was excellent. The story opens with Holly grieving for her recently dead husband Gerry, who died from a brain tumour aged 30. She isn't looking after herself or getting out at all, and her family and friends are worried about her. Then she discovers a package Gerry left behind, with a letter to her and ten envelopes, one for each remaining month of the year, in which he has left some kind of instruction or advice.

So the book covers the next ten months while Holly starts to see her friends again, finds a job, goes out partying and even begins to laugh once more. Gerry is like a constant presence telling her what to do, and she slowly learns to live again and make decisions for herself.

It could have been brilliant and moving. Many readers seem to consider that it is, but somehow I can't see it. I didn't find it very well-written: the dialogue isn't very realistic, and informal language seems to creep into the narrative rather often, but not frequently enough that it works as a style. I also found it annoying that viewpoints seemed to chop and change rapidly even within one scene. Holly is the main viewpoint character, so the majority of the events are seen from her perspective, but every so often we're given a glimpse into someone else's mind - sometimes even quite minor characters - in a way that disrupts the flow.

I also felt there was far too much emphasis on going out to pubs and clubs, drunkenness and partying. Do people of thirty really do that kind of thing? I probably sound a bit like Holly's straight-laced oldest brother Richard when I say that, and yet I don't mean it that way. I just don't personally know of anyone who lives such a wild life, and haven't even heard of people past student age doing this kind of thing.

Overall, I felt there were too many characters with not enough depth, too much sordid detail about trivialities, rather a lot of introspection from Holly which would have been better shown in action, and too little about the main plot. I didn't find any of the book amusing (although many reviews claim it's witty) nor emotionally moving (despite being told on the back that it would guarantee to tug on my heartstrings).

Having said that, it was fairly compulsive reading - over 500 pages in paperback, but I read it in less than a day. There were some nice touches - Holly's family reminded me a little of some of Maeve Binchy's Irish families, and although her siblings were rather caricatured, with two of them being very flat, I felt there was a lot of potential both in the rigid Richard - who nevertheless cares for his family deeply - and in the wild Ciara who returns from Australia.

Not really recommended, although for anyone who enjoys light-weight chick-lit, this is certainly above average.

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