This Charming Man, Marian Keyes, 2008

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It seems to me, from reviews that I have read, that Marian Keyes is not regarded as a serious author. I suspect that this comes from her novels being easy to read. “This Charming Man” is indeed easy to read, but that is because it is well written and not because it does not approach difficult subjects.

The main subjects of this book are abusive relationships, alcoholism and corruption in politics, with brief forays into living with a cancer diagnosis and isolation of cross dressers in rural communities. Marian Keyes has a deftness of touch and a sense of humour that manages to make this book engaging while still keeping the reader aware of the difficulties of the characters lives.

This is no less literature than Dickens or Austen, she has a great deal in common with Jane Austen in that the book is a good insight into society and the social norms of the time in which it is written. This story is told from the points of view of four different women and this is a structure also favoured by Austen. They also have wit in common and both poke gentle fun at their heroines as a way of pointing out the foibles of the culture in which they live. This novel is set in Dublin, London and County Clare.

Having said that, this particular novel is a little darker than some of her other books, although it is remarkable, maybe even a bit of a stretch, that she managed to tie up the loose ends quite as well as she did.

This Charming Man won the Popular Fiction Prize at the Irish Book Awards. I think it should have been considered for other more seriously regarded literary awards also, because there is no doubt that Marian Keyes’ books are going to be regarded as representative of late 20th, early 21st century literature in hundreds of years time.

 

Sing Street (dir. John Carney) 2016

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This film is written and directed by John Carney. He has a huge talent for writing likeable and recognisable characters. All of his films have some fantastic original songs in them  and this one mixes together a great 1980s soundtrack with some excellent original material.
The story is lovely, a boy forming a post-punk rock band to impress a girl who is out of his league, and to impress his stoner older brother, who he idolises. The older brother is played by Jack Reynor, who is outstanding and all but steals the show.
My one difficulty with the film was suspending my disbelief, the band became too good at playing their instruments too quickly and the happy ending was almost sad, because, as a walk off into the sunset, it was so doomed to end in disaster. This mattered because I liked everyone involved so much that I at least wanted them to have some realistic chance of success.
Having said that, this film is very enjoyable and it is rare that a writer can make you like almost everyone in a film, even the school bully.