WARNING: CONTAINS PLOT SPOILERS
I really struggled with this book. It’s not my usually thing, I picked it up on holiday as a previous guest had left it in the apartment where we were staying. I’d stupidly brought some philosophical tome to read which I just couldn’t get my head around so thought this book would be less challenging for holiday reading. It certainly looked it from the colourful cover and from getting to know the main character Lola – a stylist from Dublin with a passionate love of designer labels who’d just been dumped by her more heavyweight politician boyfriend (Patrick D’Courcy, the charming man from the title). She goes to the county to recover where she meets amusing and quirky characters and tries to lick her wounds.
After establishing this set up the narration then switches to other women who have also been close to the ‘charming man’. Steadily it unfolds that he is actually a sadist who beats, rapes and mutilates the woman in his life. It’s quite shocking and the tone pretty much remains in chicklit territory while dealing with these horrifying issues. I think it is a brave move from the author but for me she just doesn’t quite pull it off, the switches between silly moments and serious I found a bit jarring. But that does reflect life doesn’t it? Just because you’ve been a victim of rape, assault or domestic violence doesn’t mean you’ll never laugh again, fall in love again or that you’ll cease to care about the content of Vogue magazine. No, that isn’t my main criticism, I actually think the idea of tackling more serious issue in an accessible style is a very good idea (even if it didn’t entirely work for me).
The main reason I didn’t like it was the plot. I felt let down by it on behalf of abused woman. I’m not sure if I have misunderstood the author but it sent out a very strange message. After we learn about the four different women who have been abused by Patrick their plots start to move together. One of them, a journalist, finds out that Patrick is planning to leak a story to the press to destroy the career of a honourable female politician who she admires. She gets the girls together and they threaten to go to the press with their stories unless he agrees to abandon his scheme, and he does agree and also apologies to them…and they celebrate! He’s raped and tortured them and they are happy to have caused an inconvenience to his career? ! All the woman have been left with permanent physical and psychological scars from his treatment and yet are we to think this is the only justice they can expect? I found this so disappointing.
The novel ends with Patrick’s career badly damaged and him going off to continue to abuse his latest victim…and yet the main characters seem pretty happy with the outcome. I don’t think this holds up in a post Operation Yew Tree, Weinstein and #MeToo world – perhaps the world has moved on since the book was written about 10 years ago or maybe I am just naive. I understand that abuse can damage people mentally as well as physically and maybe the women are so damaged that they don’t have the confidence to aim to bring him to real justice. But then if that is the case the author deals with it very strangely with the girls whooping, laughing and celebrating their ‘victory’ with a night out in the pub.