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The Other Side of the StoryReview - The Other Side of the Story
A Novel
by Marian Keyes
Harpercollins, 2004
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D.
May 28th 2004 (Volume 8, Issue 22)

The Other Side of the Story is Marian Keyes' most sophisticated novel so far.† It is told from three perspectives.† The book starts in Ireland with Gemma Hogan, a party organizer, whose father leaves her mother for his personal assistant.† Her mother is unable to cope on her own, and so Gemma has to live with her and look after her parent.† This completely interrupts her work and social life, but after a few months she starts having an affair with a younger man that she regards as nothing serious.† Gemma seems angry not just with her father, but all men.†

Gemma is especially angry with her old boyfriend Anton, who betrayed her by getting together with her best friend Lily Wright.† Lily has written a bestselling book, Mimi's Remedies, and they have a little girl together.† They live in London.† Anton convinces her that they should buy a large house, but she needs to have another publishing success in order for them to avoid the bank repossessing it.† That puts a great deal of pressure on her relationship with Anton.†

Gemma's literary agent Jojo Harvey hopes to become a partner in her firm.† Jojo is having an affair with her boss, Mark, despite the fact that he is married.† She is very ambitious and she likes the cut-throat gossipy publishing world.† But she starts to become worried that her dreams of rising to the top of the career ladder may be thwarted, and she might in fact fall to the bottom.†

Marian Keyes tells the story of her three heroines with her usual breezy humor.† However, this book does much more to play with the reader and raise some questions about how Keyes sees her the value of her own work and the goings on of the publishing world.† Both Lily and Gemma are busy writing books (or at least trying to) for most of the novel and they worry about falling into the "chick-lit" trap, the central example of which is Bridget Jones' Diary.† Indeed, Gemma's book is a thinly disguised version of her experiences as told in the first chapters of this very novel, so Keyes is implicitly pondering whether her own work is "chicklit."† But even with this self-consciousness, Keyes' work is very obviously chick-lit, albeit slightly more complex than the standard fare.

The plot in The Other Side of the Story moves along fast, and the alternation between the different perspectives keeps it interesting.† Early on, much of the plot is narrated in Gemma's emails to her friend in Seattle.† The biggest problem is that her heroines are rather less likeable than her lead characters in her previous novels.† Lily and Anton have a certain charisma, but they are foolish in their financial decisions, and Lily is annoyingly unconfident.† Jojo has few regrets about breaking up another woman's marriage.† Gemma treats her lover nastily and then gets upset when he breaks up with her.† These women are all deeply flawed, although they become more appealing by the end of the novel.† They don't necessarily get what they had originally hoped for, but they learn from their mistakes and start to give up the grudges they used to hold.† It is an entertaining story, and a good holiday read.

The unabridged audiobook is read well by Terry Donnelly.

 

© 2004 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.

 

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Review.  His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.


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