Title: The Break
Author: Marian Keyes
Published: September 7th 2017
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Chick Lit, Romance, Women’s Fiction
Rating: 3.5 stars
Amy’s husband Hugh isn’t really leaving her.
At least, that’s what he promises. He is just taking a break – from their marriage, their children and, most of all, from their life together. For six-months Hugh will lose himself in south-east Asia, and there is nothing Amy can say or do about it.
Yes, it’s a mid-life crisis, but let’s be clear: a break isn’t a break up – yet . . .
It’s been a long time since Amy held a briefcase in one hand and a baby in the other. She never believed she’d have to go it alone again. She just has to hold the family together until Hugh comes back.
But a lot can happen in six-months. When Hugh returns, if he returns, will he be the same man she married? And will Amy be the same woman?
Because falling in love is easy. The hard part – the painful, joyous, maddening, beautiful part – is staying in love.
It seems like a significant amount of time has passed since I last read a Marian Keyes book. Keyes was one of my favourite authors in my late teens and early twenties and her books have always been on my auto buy list. When this one hit shelves, I admit to rushing out to the shops to immediately purchase a copy. The latest from Keyes, The Break, takes an introspective look at a 40 something couple’s marriage that falls into a deep rut and the fallout from this, delivered with an injection of Keyes’ trademark wit and emotional insight.
Forty four year old Amy knows something is up with her husband of seventeen years Hugh. Since the death of his father, followed by the unexpected death of a close friend, Hugh has been out of sorts for months. Eventually things come to head when Hugh proposes a radical scenario to Amy. He wants to take a break – from the responsibilities of family life, his marriage and career. He hopes that a six month break away from life in Ireland, with no contact while he travels around South-East Asia, will cure him of his overwhelming sense of hopelessness in his life. While Hugh sets off on his life affirming solo adventure, Amy is left to hold it together on the home front. She must deal with wayward daughters, ailing parents, a crazy extended family, gossiping neighbours and friends. At the same time, Amy must keep her head above water and maintain her high flying PR job, which involves a weekly commute from Dublin to London. In six months a lot can happen and change. The Break considers if a marriage on the rocks can withhold a test, such as a six month sabbatical and if this situation can help a couple grow stronger together or draw them further apart.
I was pretty excited about the prospect of a new Marian Keyes novel to read, as I am long standing fan of her work, since I read Lucy Sullivan Is Getting Married . Since the first book I devoured by Keyes I have read nearly all her novels, bar one. I have always loved her warmth, wise cracking wit, focus on family drama and light touch approach to serious topics. Readers will find The Break contains all the elements that have made Keyes’ books so successful and readable in the past. But I will say that although I enjoyed most aspects of The Break, I didn’t love this book and unfortunately it isn’t up there with my favourite novels from this author.
I liked the opening concept that Keyes begins with in The Break. The marriage between Amy and Hugh is in crisis and the proposal for husband Hugh to take a break from life in general was a radical one. It is also the prime reason why I stuck with this book. I just had to know if this couple would eventually come back to one another and if Hugh would honour his promise by returning to Amy. The suggestion of a break in a seventeen year long marriage was an curly one. The scenario is tough one and it is a situation that Keyes explores well.
The leads in The Break, Amy and Hugh, are relatable and well formed characters. They are in no way perfect and as a result, we are able to sympathise with them quite readily. Amy was a little weak at times for me and I found it frustrating that she accepted the situation Hugh presented her with little fight. Perhaps this is true of most relationships, we are so scared to lose that person we love so much and ensure their happiness that we are willing to resort to such drastic measures. Hugh was infuriating and selfish for most of the book, but I did feel an overwhelming sense of sadness for him. The leads are supported by an eclectic array of side characters. These include the couple’s own blended family, Amy’s crazy extended family, colleagues and friends. Keyes representation of these characters is rich and humorous. However, their interactions at times had me scratching my head and feeling like I was on the outside, looking into this wild family from the sidelines.
Keyes is unafraid of tackling some fairly serious issues in The Break and I admire her for this great examination into some important issues in modern life. Whilst the focus is on a marriage that hits the skids at almost the twenty year mark, Keyes also looks as grief, loss, care of ageing parents, affairs and social media issues. One of the most eye opening side narratives explored in The Break deals with abortion laws in Ireland. Keyes certainly raised my awareness of the strict controls that exist in Ireland in relation to unplanned pregnancy options. All these issues are handled with just the right blend of emotion, insight, authenticity and wise cracking wit that also demonstrates Keyes’ long standing appeal. The journey Hugh and Amy go on is a push pull, through the wringer style emotional wreck of a ride and I didn’t pick the final outcome.
The pace of The Break was quite slow to be honest and I often felt like it was dragging. It does pick up a bit in the latter parts, especially in the ‘after’ section when Hugh’s break draws to a close. In general, I felt like The Break was a little too long and it seemed to ramble in places, thus my attention waned somewhat. What also struck me was the sexual content which was much higher than usual for a Keyes novel but was in keeping with the overall direction of the narrative. Despite some areas of this novel being a disappointment, there were segments of The Break that I hold in high regard. However, my loyalty to Keyes remains. I will read that one last book in her collection I have left to discover, while I will also continue to buy her books when they are released. This one just didn’t quite hit the Marian Keyes magic spot for me.
The Break by Marian Keyes was published on September 7th 2017 by Penguin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Break, Marian Keyes visit here.