Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC. Published 7th September 2017.
The Break by Marian Keyes
Opening sentence: “‘Myself and Hugh’, I say. ‘We’re taking a break.’
It is always a delight to read a Marian Keyes book, I just love her inclusive, chatty, easy-to read writing style; her books always make me feel like I’ve met up with a good friend for a coffee and they’re telling me the latest goings-on in their life.
In The Break we meet Dubliner Amy O’Connell just as she has her world turned upside down when her husband, Hugh, decides he needs a break – six months off to travel around Asia to be precise – and there’s not much she can do about it. He’s adamant it’s not a break-up, just a temporary break from his life at the moment.
However, as Hugh leaves Amy with three teenage daughters (technically two daughters and a niece), Neeve, Kiara and Sofie, to look after on her own, while dealing with this huge emotional blow, balancing relationships with her friends, large family and busy job in PR (I loved the little insight into the way PR really works), Amy is understandably overwhelmed by her new set of circumstances and really has to figure out what she wants and how to deal with everything.
I have to say, Amy is one of the most rounded, developed characters I have encountered in a while. I really felt like I knew her, genuinely cared about her and when I’d finished the book, missed her daily life updates, as it were. She was just so relatable – by no means perfect, but trying her best and, like all of us, could be irrational, anxious and uncertain, but equally loving and funny. For me, it was all the little details that really gave her depth and realism – the references to her retro dress-sense, love of make-up and off-the-cuff comments about celebrities.
I haven’t read all of Marian Keyes’ books, so couldn’t say for certain, but, to me, Amy felt like one of Marian’s most autobiographical characters. Having previously read Marian’s collection of real-life essays and columns, Making it Up as I Go Along, there were a few anecdotes from that book that I recognised happening to Amy in this one, from Amy’s love of Strictly Come Dancing and Sephora to her friend she nicknames, ‘Posh Petra’.
Also, there is an interesting – and important – sub-plot about Amy’s niece having an abortion. Abortion is illegal in Ireland, and Marian is a supporter of Repeal the 8th – an Irish campaign that is gathering signatures to call for a referendum to repeal the 8th amendment that makes abortion illegal. So, when the below exchange happens to Amy at a UK abortion clinic, I read this as Marian making her feelings quite clear on the issue:
The woman says, ‘We have a lower rate for those coming from Ireland. Because it’s already costing you so much.’
‘Thank you.’ It’s decent of them, extremely so. And yet I feel ashamed that a foreign country is helping us because our own country won’t.’
These links between Amy’s fictional world and the author’s real one made this an even more interesting read for me and the fact that Marian makes you think about big issues, while drawing you in with such endearing, realistic characters is a wonderful combination – and the reason that I will always look forward to her clever, charming stories.