Reviewed by Emma Crowley
'Name: Stella Sweeney.
Recent life events: dramatic.'
One day, sitting in traffic, married Dublin mum Stella Sweeney attempts a good deed. The resulting car crash changes her life.
For she meets a man who wants her telephone number (for the insurance, it turns out). That's okay. She doesn't really like him much anyway (his Range Rover totally banjaxed her car).
But in this meeting is born the seed of something which will take Stella thousands of miles from her old life, turning an ordinary woman into a superstar, and, along the way, wrenching her whole family apart.
Is this all because of one ill-advised act of goodwill? Was meeting Mr Range Rover destiny or karma? Should she be grateful or hopping mad?
For the first time real, honest-to-goodness happiness is just within her reach. But is Stella Sweeney, Dublin housewife, ready to grasp it?
Marian Keyes is finally back with her brand new novel ‘The Woman Who Stole My Life’. Any new release from Marian is always eagerly anticipated by her legions of fans and I am no exception. Marian was one of the first authors that got me into reading chicklit, although it goes far beyond that term and I think nowadays women’s fiction is a more suitable title for this genre.
I can remember many years ago being stuck in the Gaeltacht (an area where you go to learn Irish and stay with an Irish speaking family) for three weeks as part of my college course and Marian’s books got me through long boring days as they were always humorous with plenty of laugh out loud moments but also had a strong message at their centre. So I expected more great things with this new book despite reading some mixed reviews beforehand.
Having now read the book I can say I didn’t hate the book but yet neither did it have me fully engrossed, it just didn’t fully hit the mark for me and left me feeling underwhelmed. There were flashes of the brilliance we all know Marian is capable of but they were few and far between. Instead I was left wondering for the majority of the book ‘Where in God’s name is this going?'. Even the ending wasn’t all that great and I was left disappointed as I finished the last page.
This is a long book but despite that I was able to read it in three sittings, it didn’t feel a chore to read but it was missing the trademark Marian Keyes sparkle I have loved in the past. The main character is Stella Sweeney who we first meet as she has a car accident and crashes into Mannix Taylor - little does she realise karma has a role to play and she will encounter this man later in her life in the most unusual of circumstances. Fast forward and we discover Stella sitting at her desk attempting to write her second book with not much luck. I loved how Stella used Twitter as a distraction technique when inspiration wasn’t readily flowing because I think we all do that. I can even go as far to say this happens to me on a daily basis.
From here on the book jumps around an awful lot and not in a good way, I read this book on my Kindle and this normally doesn’t bother me but the formatting really wasn’t great and this took away from my enjoyment of reading about Stella and her troubles. One minute you were reading about Stella in the present where tantalising glimpses of her past were hinted at, then there were extracts from a book she had written called One Blink at a Time and then all of a sudden there were clues about time spent in New York. Very slowly all became clear but it was just too muddled up for my liking.
The first half of the book was well written and interesting as we discover Stella had developed an extremely rare illness called Guillan-Barre Syndrome an autoimmune disorder which attacks the central nervous system and had led to Stella spending long months in intensive care unable to move any part of her body or speak. The only thing she can do to communicate is blink.
I had never heard about this syndrome before but as we are with Stella every step of the way in hospital we feel for everything she is going through and how one minute your life can be going along OK and the next moment everything is turned upside down. Stella’s family were not the most supportive and I disliked her husband Ryan and son Jeffrey, her daughter Betsy seemed OK. But really Ryan was selfish, unsupportive and in the present day parts of the novel a total and utter weirdo. The only really nice, funny character was Stella’s dad -Bert he really should have been utilised more as he had a few good one liners. In hospital Mannix appears again as Stella’s neurologist and they develop a method of communication through blinking the alphabet. Mannix aids Stella’s recovery (it’s OK to mention this as it does happen quite early on in the book) and when she is released Ryan and Stella split leaving Stella to explore her feelings for Mannix.
I never got a convincing feeling that Stella was head over heels in love with Mannix, OK there were plenty of sex scenes which really didn’t need to be there and it was like they were just thrown in to spice up the book a bit and their relationship just developed way too fast. The flitting between the past and present continued throughout the book with sections titled him, her and me which being honest I didn’t know what they were about.
Having enjoyed reading about Stella’s time in hospital I found reading how she published her book and her time In New York was just boring and the mysterious Gilda was just an awful character whose role didn’t become clear until the end. But by then when I still had the feeling of where was this all going and what was the point of the story? Combined with the frankly ridiculous storyline Ryan had and the poor development of some of the characters and underutilisation of others, overall the book left me disappointed as it really didn’t live up to my hopes of another enthralling, engaging read from Marian. I’m sorry to say Marian Keyes may have just lost a fan but I’m sure this doesn’t matter as there will always be plenty of people queuing up to buy her books.
I'd like to thank Emma for reviewing this eBook which we received from the publisher via NetGalley.