Thursday, March 18, 2010

A random lump of ice didn't fall on my house

I generally love the books of Marian Keyes, even if they sometimes deal with difficult subjects (the news itself is full of painful and difficult stories these days, so why voluntarily subject myself to more of it in my leisure hours?). Her latest book, The Brightest Star in the Sky, once again tackles hard issues but includes a new cast of quirky characters and charming turns of phrase, so that overall the whole book is not a downer.

The events in the novel center around an apartment building at 66 Star Street in Dublin. Overseeing the lives of the tenants is a mysterious presences, whose identity will be revealed near the end of the story. In the meantime, we get to meet the inhabitants of the flats:

Matt and Maeve, a newlywed couple who seem to have no friends and spend every evening watching TV and eating cookies

Jemima and Grudge, an 88-year-old psychic woman and her hostile dog

Katie, a single woman who's just turned 40 and works in the music PR business

Jan, Andrei and Lydia, two Polish workers and their testy Irish cab-driving lodger

The various characters move in and out of each others lives. Throughout the story we get bits and pieces of information which explains why certain characters behave as they do. We find out why Lydia is so short-tempered and why Maeve drives her bicycle so recklessly, for instance. Couples form and break up throughout the book, and there is an interesting side-story about Jemima's foster son, an aspiring TV gardener who has "magic pockets."

In addition to all the slightly wacky characters and amusing situations, there are also some tragic and heart-breaking events that occur. I made the mistake of listening to the audio version of the story, and I had to go to work several mornings sniffling and trying to hold back tears after some particularly ill-timed situations occurred!

The ending of the story is somewhat predictable (except for an unexpected application of some well-deserved justice), but still enjoyable. I was truly sorry when the story was over and I had to leave 66 Star Street behind. It would make a fantastic film -- Hollywood, are you listening? Then again, after the massacre they did on Confessions of a Shopaholic last year, maybe it's better left alone.

On a side note, I was extremely distressed to read in the Marian Keyes newsletter that she has been suffering from severe depression recently. I'm sure all of her fans around the world join me in wishing her a fast recovery.

Final Verdict for The Brightest Star in the Sky: Four Gherkins, for being a charming, if sometimes difficult, modern fairy tale

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