Angels (by Marian Keyes)

As far as I know, I had never read anything by Marian Keyes. Yet, more than once, visitors have asked me if I have any books by this author. So when I saw one of her novels for a euro in a charity shop, with interesting blurb on the back, I thought I would it.

It still took me nine months to get to the point of actually reading 'Angels'. However, I quickly found myself engrossed. It's narrated by Maggie, a woman in her early thirties in Ireland who has always appeared to be calm and well-behaved. She has a good job and is happily married to Garv (yes, that's Garv, not Gary)... or so it seems.

Unfortunately, something has gone wrong. Garv drops a faux pas that makes Maggie think that he had been unfaithful. This is really the last straw although it's not until later in the book that we begin to understand the many circumstances and stresses that have led up to this moment. She leaves him, staying awhile in her somewhat eccentric parents' home, then suddenly decides to fly out to the USA to see a close friend who lives in California.

Maggie takes awhile to recover from jet-lag and grieving for her marriage, but gradually gets drawn into the strangely fake materialistic culture she finds herself in. Her friend Emily is a script-writer who has not had much success, so much of the novel focuses on her writing, and the difficulties of having a script accepted. Maggie finds herself learning the language of Hollywood, spending vast amounts of money on her appearance, and even experimenting with new relationships.

There were places when the book could have been sordid, but somehow it manages to stop short of that. The writing is good, sometimes amusing, and the main the characters are sympathetic. I loved the way that Maggie's past slowly unfolds in her memories and conversations, cleverly triggered by present events and seamlessly integrated. Some of the minor characters are nicely caricatured, offering a bit of light relief from some quite heavy issues that are covered in this novel.

Inevitably there is some bad language, but even that didn't seem entirely out of place or over-done. All in all I found it a satisfying and enjoyable book.

Recommended to anyone who likes women's literature of a 'chick-lit' nature with some thought-provoking substance. I shall definitely be looking out for more novels by Marian Keyes in future.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 14th August 2011

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