Watermelon by Marian Keyes, is our February Book Babes Club pick (members take turns each month picking the book we read by a random drawing) This pick comes from member Jeanne Janas. I’m more of a literary fiction fan but I do like reading light-hearted chick lit from time to time. If you set your expectations appropriately, Watermelon is a rollicking read—a laugh-out-loud romp that is light on plot and heavy on hilarious musings about the most mundane of details in life. Author Marian Keyes writes as if talking to her BFF through the voice of the book’s main character Claire, a 29-year-old Dublin transplant living in London. Claire has just given birth to her first child, the same day her husband leaves her for another woman. This is where the story begins, February 15th, the day of her daughter’s birth and her abandonment by James, her husband of five years, who leaves Claire for his mistress living in the same apartment complex. Claire returns to her parents home in Dublin, where two of her five sisters still live, to lick her wounds and recover. The premise is tragic at surface value but sets the scene for many funny moments.
Although the plot is thin and predictable—woman gets dumped; woman becomes emotionally unhinged; woman meets younger, sexier, handsome man; husband wants woman back; woman says too late and runs off with a better version of her ex— Claire’s exaggerated, self-deprecating humor makes up for what the story lacks in action and substance. Claire has a talent for personifying mundane objects such as her mom’s nightgown with an inner life and dialog that become fodder for her funny rants.
The story conventions are predictable but Claire surprises the reader with some insightful revelations, giving words to some of life’s vexing paradoxes—“Isn’t it odd how relief can sometimes feel very much like dread? How happiness can feel like disappointment?” Claire wonders in a be-careful-what-you-wish-for moment when her husband returns.
Don’t expect any earth-shattering revelations but there are some truisms that resonate. As Claire says of her predicament when trying to decide to return to her husband James, “In real life, it’s often almost impossible to tell which decision is the one you should make because what you stand to gain and what you stand to lose are sometimes—often—neck and neck.” Time does heal. People persevere. Claire reminds us all that life’s lumps often make us better for it.
Watermelon is pure entertainment— nothing more nor does it pretend to be. A step up the literary food chain from bodice-ripping romance novels, Watermelon is a punchier, funnier iteration of a modern-day romance, irreverent, sarcastic, self-deprecating, with raw honesty and a happy ending.
Other books by author Marian Keyes.