Grown Ups, by Marian Keyes.
Millions of Marian Keyes fans will heave a sigh of pleasure at the appearance of her latest book. True to form, it follows the fortunes of yet another Irish family, the three Casey brothers, over the course of six months. As we all know, a lot (good and bad) can happen in such a short time, and Keyes fans can settle back and prepare for the tragicomic read that Ms Keyes is so good at: strong, credible characters; lots of slap and tickle, and plenty of wonderful Irish craic. What more could we ask for from the Queen of Chick Lit? Except that this time, not all the boxes are ticked.
It is Johnny Casey’s 49th birthday party. Wife Jessie has pulled out all the stops to prepare (catered) a five-star spread, inviting his brothers Ed and Liam and their families, and all appears to be proceeding satisfactorily – until Ed’s wife Cara, suffering from delayed concussion from an earlier ‘incident’, decides to reveal family secrets that will profit none of them to know. ‘Loose Lips Sink Ships’ could not be more apt as the Casey Family Ship starts listing terribly under the weight of the revelations: Johnny has a separate secret bank account that struggling businesswoman Jessie is unaware of – and it appears he has been having an affair with an ex-family-friend; youngest brother Liam, (still forty, though!) recently married for the second time to considerably younger theatre set-designer Nell (whom all the family children adore) bonked a teenage friend of Jessie’s daughter on their Tuscan holiday; Cara, a Bulimia sufferer who told everyone she was cured, was caught in the act of bingeing – by Nell and Ferdia, Jessie’s eldest son (but still nine years younger than Nell) who can’t keep their hands off each other.
What a party! What a Rage! What a mess.
Ms Keyes works hard to bring us all up to speed with the plot details and how all these lamentable situations developed, but halfway through this mighty tome (upwards of 640 pages) the action slows to a pace that snails would breeze past – which is a great shame, for at her best Marian Keyes is a hugely entertaining writer who can combine with great empathy the highs and lows of our frenetic modern existence: in this story she has thrown too many balls in the air without being able to catch them all. FOUR STARS. (Because she’s Marian Keyes).