Sunday, 3 April 2011

Review: Why do we have to live with Men? by Bernadette Strachan

Why do we have to live with men? As another evening with her best friends and a few bottles of wine comes to an end, Cat O'Connor is left pondering this very question. And, escaping from a ruined love affair, she is about to find the answer. When Cat joins a group of women in a huge, decaying farmhouse deep in the countryside, she prepares to embark on six months without men. Cat is promised a nirvana of serenity where the chores are done without mutinous mutterings, where nourishing food simmers on the Aga and where feelings are taken seriously. But Cat soon discovers that women are no saints either...

This is the first chick-lit I have read since reading ‘From Notting Hill with Love… Actually’ by Ali McNamara, and I have come to a worrying conclusion. That book is the pinnacle, and nothing quite lives up to it. I sure hope McNamara’s follow up ‘Breakfast at Darcy’s’ lives up to it otherwise I’m going to be very sad for a really long time. So whilst I did really enjoy this book, it doesn’t quite make it up into the top level of ravyness that I seem to exude in most of my reviews.

I want to start by saying that WDWHTLWM? Was a really good book, well written, very funny, brilliant characters – it just wasn’t quite my cup of tea. It comes very close, but of all the  Bernadette Strachan books I’ve read, ‘Handbags and Halo’s’ and ‘Little White Lies’ are still my favourites.

That isn’t to diminish this book at all, it is still exceptionally good writing – I frequently found myself laughing out loud which in itself is quite an impressive feat. I also genuinely couldn’t tell which way Cat was going to go. I like a challenge. Sometimes it does get a little boring being able to work out who she’ll end up with within the first few chapters. Cat was a well rounded, incredibly likeable person. In fact all of the characters were. Yes there were moments when I would have loved to thump them with something heavy, but there are moments when I’d like to do that in real life, so as far as I’m concerned that gets chalked up as a good thing.
Even people I really disliked at the start ended up being not all bad. And there were some people I really loved at the start and yet I wanted to smother with a pillow by the end.

One test when I’m picking up a new book and I’m not sold by the blurb, is to read the first page. I actually started having hysterics in the middle of Waterstone’s in just the first page. The humour is brilliant – that’s something Strachan always pulls off spectacularly – and I love a book that can do that. There are also the dark moments, and she knows how to do them too. There were quite a few dark moments, and I do prefer a little less of them, some of them were really too heavy. But equally I’m glad that she doesn’t shy away from topics like that in a genre that is sometimes mocked for being ‘fluffy’.

However, despite it not being quite my thing, I still enjoyed reading it, I still couldn’t put it down, and I still cried at the end. I’m a sap. I get emotionally involved with characters. I should really see someone about that…

So to sum up, it’s not my favourite but it’s still up there. Brilliantly written, very funny, with fab characters that will have you laughing and howling in equal parts. Bernadette Strachan is a genius of chick-lit, and I highly recommend her books. Although don’t go in expecting pure light relief, she isn’t afraid to tackle some of the harder subjects as well.

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