I have decided to read more books, and because I thought my trip to Florence would be heavy enough without Russian novelists and Franz Kafka (I was right), I went with 2 books by Marian Keyes. This is technically chick-lit. I understand Chick-Lit as easy-to-read material with one or more female protagonists in the 20-30 age category getting entangled in all kinds of romantic escapades. Not really high literature, but as I mentioned, easy to read. Usually I really enjoy this kind of books… but I did not enjoy these. At all. Let me tell you why.
Sushi For Beginners is a book by Marian Keyes, and it has several problems in my opinion. To begin with, it is STUFFED with mental health references. Practically all the characters have some sort of mental health issue, and it’s… just not nice. A character with “mild” schizophrenia is described as a badly dressed lunatic who yells and curses at her assistants all the time and claims to be from another planet. Oh, and she also kisses her dogs on the mouth. As a schizophrenia patient, I was insulted by the description. There is a mother with depression who cries all the time and writes poetry that wouldn’t look bad on the Livejournal of a 14-yo emo girl. Her daughter can’t stop counting traffic lights and pavement tiles, and is ridiculously superstitious, apparently developing OCD as a result of her mother’s depression. Right, and later on in the story she ALSO develops depression! (there’s mention of prozac. And it works right away! *coughs*) There is a neurotic magazine editor whose extreme diets border on anorexia and who… guess what? Also develops depression! There is a chronically insecure (and unfaithful) comedian, a terribly self-centered young mother, a betrayed husband who turns a bitter women-hater… Actually, none of the characters were really likable. And that was the second chief issue with this book. The characters were too flawed to be funny, and too caricatural to be serious. Add to that the fact I saw the major plot twist coming right from the start, and this was NOT a good read. This book didn’t make me laugh, it made me agitated. The obligatory happy end did not make up for it.
The Other Side Of The Story is another book by Marian Keyes, and thankfully this one had less mental health references. The other problem, of characters being unlikable, was present here as well though. Maybe I have a very immature idea of chick-lit, but really, I don’t need all that bitterness when I’m reading to relax! Rancorous Gemma who can’t get over the fact that her father has left her mother, Dazed-And-Confused Lily who is deeply remorseful over stealing Gemma’s boyfriend, and Pragmatic-But-Troubled JoJo who has a relationship with her boss were… well, not the best protagonists I ever came across. As I mentioned, the general theme of the story was revenge, bitterness, and inability to deal with emotional issues, which I don’t really consider fuel for excellent humor. One little plus: the cliché character of Irina, an Ukrainian make-up saleswoman who is obsessed with money (her hobby is counting her cash). She was a total racial stereotype, but I ended up really loving her character and I wish there had been more of her in the story. I enjoyed this book far more than the previous one, but it still wasn’t great…