I must admit to some reluctance at writing book reviews. Whilst novels are probably my life’s greatest passion (alongside lipstick, obvs.), I never want to be one of those wanky, smug gits who ruin a book you might love by discussing it in depth before you can have a chance to make your own mind up, like the utter tree-rots who ruined Edge of Reason before it even came out.
The thing with Marian Keyes, and the reason I decided to review her latest novel despite my reluctance, is that spoilers can’t really ruin it. You always have a fair idea of where things are going from minute one, the beauty and joy of reading her work is in the journey her characters take to get there.
The Woman Who Stole My Life very much continues this theme. We meet the main protagonists, Stella Sweeney and Mannix Taylor as their lives collide, quite literally in their cars, for the very first time.
The story takes us through many twists and turns, the core one being Stella’s very rare illness, Guillain-Barre syndrome, often called ‘locked-in’ syndrome.
Stella goes from being a healthy, if slightly bored, 37 year old mum of two, to a long term ICU patient unable to speak, move or even breathe without support. The twist is that her brain still works completely well – hence the term locked in.
I don’t want to ruin the story too much but from here the story is Keyes’ stock in trade – how human beings relate to one another in crisis. As always without being worthy, her customary black humour pours through the story, making a novel that could have been entirely twee something funnier and altogether more relatable.
As a huge fan of Keyes the announcement of a new novel fills me with the sort of pant-wetting hysteria you see in Christmas Eve hyped toddlers on Lucozade. My husband dreads it, as he knows that from the very first page to the last, I am no longer of ‘this’ world and mundane chores such as feeding the children, or him, or dressing for instance are just a pain in the arse and are therefore to be ignored.
So it is a bit tough to say that whilst this book is still a million times ahead of just about every other chic-lit author on the market, it isn’t Keyes’s best. Still incredibly enjoyable, it took me four days to read. Normally I don’t go to sleep until I have finished the book so my average is one day. Two at best
The story is lovely, the humour is there, and my only true criticism is that some of the lesser characters are a little bit cookie-cutter. There is more than a touch of the pantomime about Stella’s hard-boiled sister and selfish artist ex-husband and when that comes from a writer given to such natural depth normally, even in humorous characters, it is just very slightly jarring.
The Woman Who Stole My Life is definitely worth a couple of days in an onesie, with a large box of Quality Street over Christmas, even if it isn’t my favourite. Three and a half stars from me.