The Brightest Star in the Sky

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The Brightest Star in the Sky By Marian Keyes, book reviewMarian Keyes’ latest book, The Brightest Star in the Sky, is set in and around a multi-occupancy residential building, 66 Star Street, which as you’d expect is in Dublin. It follows the lives, loves, triumphs and disappointments of the residents, a mismatched bunch that I found hard to imagine sharing a roof. On the ground floor we find Maeve and Matt the young married couple who seem to be rather more clingy than might be expected and are harbouring a horrible secret that explains their rapidly revealed reliance on anti-depressants. Heading to the upper floors we meet Jemima, the elderly protestant who lives with her dog and is temporarily putting up her pretty-boy catholic foster-son Fionn whilst he makes a gardening programme for a television channel. Jemima is a part time telephone psychic, a complete fraud of course, but one with a good heart. We also find aggressive, gobby, angry little Lydia, sharing a flat with two terribly serious Poles called Jan and Andrei and driving taxis to pay her rent. What’s HER problem, you’re sure to think, and of course that’s what you’re supposed to think and of course Marian will reveal all if you keep reading. At the top of the house lives Katie, successful music PR with an on again-off again relationship with fabulously wealthy business man Connal, the man who came to takeover the company she works for and spends most of his life on slash and burn raids all over the world making him a good ‘catch’ but utterly unreliable. It’s not for nothing that her colleagues nick named him Connal the Barbarian.

So far, so fairly predictable. I could live with this set up if I thought it was going to develop intriguingly. What I couldn’t live with from the very offset was the narrator. The story is told by a mystical observing force, nipping in and out of their flats, in and out of their minds and hovering about. We’re not sure what it is until very near the end but it irritated the pants off me. Was it a star (as the title perhaps suggested) or a benign spirit of some kind? Plough on through 600 pages or so and you’ll find out and possibly wish you hadn’t bothered. Combined with this irritating little voice telling the story is another massively irritating affectation – the chapters are numbered for days and they’re counted backwards. If that wasn’t annoying enough, multiple chapters have the same name so make sure you’ve got a book mark or are happy dog-earing your page corners. I was at least 200 pages in before I realised that I still didn’t give a damn about a single character in the book.

“Why do writers choked on success all seem to want to do a J.K. Rowling and make every book fatter than the last?”

It’s not all totally annoying. I found some of the things the residents did very amusing or interesting. Unravelling the secret of the depression on the ground floor was intriguing and the eventual apparent divine retribution on the villain of the piece did have me keen to punch the air and shout “Take that you bastard” though it was of course ridiculous how things played out. I loved the intensity of Lydia’s anger and her passion for trying to bring justice to her aging mother when nobody would listen to her concerns, just as I enjoyed the passion of her coupling with a man she allegedly hated and her contempt for another man trying far too hard to win her over. I found Katie on the top floor ludicrous in her 4 inch heels and her silly job PR-ing for rock stars and really didn’t give a hoot whether she and Connal ever patched things up. Fionn, was fluffy and Andrei’s prissy magnet-kneed girlfriend Rosie was laughably awful. Jemima was strangely compelling in last 100 pages or so but it was a hard slog to get that far.

What is it with fat books? Why do writers choked on success all seem to want to do a J.K. Rowling and make every book fatter than the last? There’s a good 250 page novel tucked inside Brightest Star in the Sky but it’s carrying 350 pages of flab that really should have been shed. It’s far too big for a beach read, too heavy for dipping into on public transport and it’s basically just not worth the effort. After about 15 years of loyalty, I’ve had enough. Marian’s just been dumped – sorry love but you’re off my reading list for good and the books off to another charity shop since that’s the only good I can see coming out of it.


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Brightest Star in the Sky (The)
by Marian Keyes

One Comment on "The Brightest Star in the Sky"

  1. Vladimir
    Vladimir
    25/08/2010 at 16:39 Permalink

    After this experience I think you are ready to buy an ebook reader…

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Written by koshkha
koshkha

Koshkha has a busy international job that gives her lots of time sitting on planes and in hotel rooms reading books. Despite averaging about 3 books a week, she probably has enough on her ‘to be read’ shelves to keep her going for a good few years and that still doesn’t stop her scouring the second hand books shops and boot-fairs of the land for more. At weekends she lives with her very lovely husband and three cats, but during the week she lives alone like a mad spinster aunt. She will read just about anything about or set in India, despises chick-lit, doesn’t ‘get’ sci fi and vampire ‘stuff’ and has just ordered a Kindle despite swearing blind that she never would.

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