Book Review: Secrets of a Happy Marriage by Cathy Kelly
I’ve read a few duds lately, so I was excited to be offered this novel via Netgalley. However, as it turns out, Secrets of a Happy Marriage too was a bit of a dud.
It started out well. We were introduced to Faenia, who left Ireland in her youth and is now thinking of returning after forty plus years for her brother’s, Edward, 70th birthday. Edward has recently married Bess, after losing his wife, Lottie, three years previous. We’re also introduced to Edward’s daughter, Jojo, his niece, Cari, Bess’s daughter, Amy, Edward and Faenia’s two other brothers, their wives, their other children, their cousins, their siblings, their work colleagues, their work clients, their clients and colleagues partners and siblings… You see the problem? I needed a spreadsheet to keep it all straight!
I don’t understand how the book got past the editors in this form. It could have been cut down, with Kelly concentrating on one or two characters and their plot lines, and been a wonderful book. Instead, it’s a mishmash that’s ultimately dissatisfying and difficult to finish.
The problem with having so many characters is needing too many plot conflicts. There might have been a touch of hope with Bess and Edward’s story line, but on the whole, the conflict of plots’ Kelly created were forced and ridiculous (a 30-something being upset because her 70 year old father remarries after being widowed for three years? I could spend an entire blog post on the insanity of this conflict of plot for starters).
There were other editing issues, with some characters’ thoughts being repeated from chapter to chapter. It was almost like Kelly needed to remind us about the plot and the character traits (and maybe she did!). My eyes glazed over at times, especially when I had to read about the wisdom of Nora and the goodness of Lottie far too many times.
There is one small surprise near the end of the book which I would have enjoyed (regarding Faenia) but Kelly unfortunately went into some sort of politically correct psycho-babble about why this happened. Really… It just spoilt the whole effect. It also made it seem like she plopped the whole thing in to win over some minority group…
Ms Kelly, please remember next time: Less is more.
2 ½ out of 5.