Saturday, 3 August 2013

Guest Book Review: Anne-Marie Casey - An Englishwoman in New York

Reviewed by Lisa Bentley

When Lucy's husband loses his job and is relocated to New York, she is forced to give up her posh London life and move to a tiny Manhattan apartment. Homesick and resentful at first, Lucy soon finds herself embarking on an exhilarating new affair - no, not with her husband, although she is surprised to find they do still love each other, but with the city itself and the three women she meets at the school gates who, against all odds, become her friends.

Christy, married to a wealthy older man, questions her life choice as she fantasizes about her doorman and tries to make peace with her angry stepdaughter. Julia is a workaholic television writer who becomes convinced her family is better off without her, until a neighbour's dog makes her re-think everything. Meanwhile Robyn, bread-winning wife to an aspiring novelist, has had enough. She wants what her friends are having - even if it means an affair with at least one, if not all, of their husbands...

An English Woman in New York by Anne-Marie Casey is the story of four women who are all connected through the microcosmic world of New York society. The four main characters – Lucy, Christy, Julia and Robyn – have a daily impact on each other’s lives, sometimes completely unaware of this. The relationships which are often marred with negativity, hopelessness and lack of determination or goals are the driving force in this story.

Strangely, the story sort of starts midway through the plot. It feels as though the first few chapters are missing or that Casey wrote them but disregarded them and as a bold style choice decided to start with little to no exposition. As the reader I felt like I should flick back and try and garner what was going on only to find that I hadn’t missed a page or a chapter out. It was discombobulating. However with dogged determination I persevered through my confusion.

What I found is that the plights of the characters’, these upper class socialites (with the exception of Robyn), is that they just seemed frivolous and unimportant. I didn’t understand why the stories of their lives would hold anyone’s attention. They lacked the lustre of glamour found in glitterati novels of the past and their problems whilst seemingly contemporary just didn’t seem important enough. They lacked lustre or pizzazz and just seemed petty and made me scoff at their poor little rich girl lives; there is nothing that makes this novel stand out.

Furthermore, the title of the book just becomes very misleading which we see more and more as the plot and the individual characters develop. Somewhat confusingly, Lucy, the ‘Englishwoman,’ appears to get the least amount of page time compared to her American counterparts. The title and cover seem out of place with the overall story.

All this being said the narrative style (which at times resembled a mixture of the narrative voices found in Sex and the City and Desperate Housewives) was entertaining and executed well. However, the indifferent tone did have an impact on me as a reader because for the 275 pages I was continually asking myself ‘who cares?’

Overall, I would say this book is extremely odd. Well written but not necessarily relevant nor is it an encouraging form of escapism.

Amazon links: Paperback or Kindle

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