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(Audiobook – narrated by Mandy Weston and Rupert Farley)

The Joy of the title is Joy Stevens, a brilliant and beautiful newly made partner at a prestigious law firm. The story opens a short time after she has fallen – or jumped – from a high balcony at said law firm. The story of what led her to the moment of falling is explored throughout the book.

The chapters alternate from Joy’s point of view (albeit told in the third person) where the day that she fell is narrated bit by bit, while Joy’s history, marriage and the tragedy in her past is also exploited; and the point of view of various people in Joy’s life – Dennis, her husband; Samir, who works in the gym at the law firm; Barbara, her irascible PA; and Peter, husband of Joy’s friend and also Joy’s on-off lover. Their chapters are told in one-sided conversation with a counsellor who has obviously been brought in to help them deal with the shock of seeing their work colleague plummet from the balcony and the fact that she now lies in hospital, clinging to life by the thinnest of threads.

Audiobooks are never my favourite medium for consuming a book but I did enjoy this one in the most part, mainly because of the two narrators. It’s a rare book where¬†none of the characters are likeable, but this book comes quite close to the mark. Although I could empathise to an extent with Joy’s sorrow, I still found her self-centred and in many ways unkind. However, she herself recognised these qualities in herself and at least felt some regret for them. Dennis and Peter were pretty unbearable, but that’s okay because I’m sure they were meant to be. Dennis was one of those crushing bores who nobody wants to get stuck with at a party – full of his own self-importance and in love with the sound of his own voice. Peter was an egotistical chauvinist, who treated his wife and most other people like rubbish. Possibly the most sympathetic character was the obsessive compulsive Samir.

The story unfolded fairly slowly after a somewhat eye-popping start. It’s a drama for sure, if not altogether exactly dramatic. The truth behind Joy’s fall is drip-fed and the ending of the book takes a more surprising turn altogether.

Overall despite disliking all of the characters, I did enjoy the book and found it an interesting read. It did leave me on something of a downer though, and a craving for something light-hearted and upbeat to follow up!

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Larissa Stark has it all – a loving husband, three great children, a big house in a good neighbourhood, good looks and lots of money. But everything is turned on it’s head when she meets a young man in parking lot and finds herself drawn to another life. Her existence becomes a ongoing deceit and web of lies as she struggles with her conscience and tries to decide whether to stay or go. But is it possible to exchange one life for another quite so easily – and is the grass always as green as it appears on the other side?…

I have read several of Paullina Simons’ books over the years and enjoyed them all (I especially recommend The Bronze Horseman, The Girl in Times Square and Tully, the latter of which touched on many of the same themes as A Song in the Daylight). So it was with eagerness that I started this book, as well as maybe some apprehension (it’s almost 800 pages long and if I didn’t enjoy it, that could be a bit of a slog!) And after having finished it this morning, I find I have mixed thoughts. On the positive side, I do like Simons’ style of writing – she takes her time telling a story, so if a fast moving plot is what you are after, this may not be the book for you, but she really grounds out the situation for the reader so that you are immersed in events. Her prose flows and I found that I was reading large chunks at a time, and yes I did look forward to picking it up and continuing to read.

However, I found that I absolutely detested the main character. Now, I don’t think it’s necessary to like a character to enjoy a book ¬†– for me, American Psycho is one of the best books I ever read and there is no universe in which I can say I like Patrick Bateman – but there does have to be something about them to draw you in, to maybe see things from their point of view even if you don’t agree with it. But Larissa just came across as a spoiled, selfish and pretentious narcissist who rode roughshod over other people to get what she wanted. Not only did she treat her husband and family badly but she also stopped caring about her friends and stopped seeing when they clearly needed her support.

Most of the other characters were also fairly unsympathetic – I found that as a reader I never really knew much about her young lover Kai; somehow I feel like he was the least fleshed out character of all. I did quite like Jared in the end, and also Larissa’s friend Maggie, but not her pretentious navel-gazing husband Ezra, although he came across better in the last third of the book, when the point of view is switched to that of Jared.

Overall, I did enjoy this book and would still read more by Paullina Simons. That said, if you had never read this author before and wanted to give it a go, this would not be the book I would recommend you start with.

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