Better late than never – it’s time to talk about April’s Book Club choice! Last month, we read The Break*, a Marian Keyes masterpiece.It’s a pretty long read, so I couldn’t do my usual trick of reading the whole thing in one afternoon. Instead, it took me almost a week to get through it – I can’t remember the last time I spent that long on one single book! It was a week well-spent, though, as the story is so deep and multi-layered that it couldn’t possibly have been told as beautifully in a shorter format. Keyes is an absolute genius at writing real-life emotional dramas. The way she portrays families as so charmingly dysfunctional and simultaneously the absolute rock in her characters’ lives reels me into every single one of her books. I’ve read them all and I love them all.
The Break was no different. When the protagonist’s husband decides he needs to take six months ‘out’ from life and go travelling, he leaves her with all the responsibilities – family, work, the house, three teenage daughters (!!!!!). Obviously, as a reader I was completely on her side. But as the book develops, it transpires that she’s made a few misjudgements of her own, and suddenly nothing is quite so clear.
Without giving away any more of the plot, I finished this book not quite knowing how I felt. There were so many things I loved about it – the close-knit family, the way Keyes addresses both serious current affairs issues as well as giving a few nods to pop-culture, the way she gives her characters stories that are so vivid and detailed that they may as well be your next-door-neighbours. But at the same time, there was so much betrayal and disrespect going on, both in romantic relationships and in friendships, that I almost felt a bit betrayed myself.
I’m glad that I finished the book and gave myself a bit of time to digest it before typing up this post, because I feel a lot clearer about what to take from it now. Most obviously, The Break is a reminder that every story has at least two sides. Sometimes seven. Presenting only one side might make for a nicer, cleaner story, but it also makes it a lot flatter. Secondly, I think the book is a bit of an uncomfortable truth: we all know that not everyone treats us with the respect we deserve, but we sometimes don’t offer everyone the respect they deserve, either. It’s part of being human and making mistakes, but it also reminds us to be more conscious of the impact our actions and behaviour have on those who love us.