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Manny Rayner's book reviews

I love reviewing books - have been doing it at Goodreads, but considering moving here.

Currently reading

The Greatest Show On Earth: The Evidence For Evolution
Richard Dawkins
R in Action
Robert Kabacoff
Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies
Douglas R. Hofstadter
McGee on Food and Cooking: An Encyclopedia of Kitchen Science, History and Culture
Harold McGee
Epistemic Dimensions of Personhood
Simon Evnine
Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning (Information Science and Statistics)
Christopher M. Bishop
Relativity, Thermodynamics and Cosmology
Richard C. Tolman
The Cambridge Handbook of Second Language Acquisition
Julia Herschensohn, Martha Young-Scholten
Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman: A Novel - Elizabeth Buchan I've occasionally been foolish enough to make disparaging comments about chick-lit and Elisabeth finally cornered me. Either I shut up, or I read a few. I've always had problems shutting up, so I chose the other option.

I certainly enjoyed Bad Manors, a light comedy. This one's darker in tone, but I liked it too. Well, how could I not like a novel whose heroine reviews books for a living, speaks French and is fond of cats? I was on Rose's side before we'd finished chapter one, and I'd be prepared to guess that more than a few women on this site will feel the same way - particularly if they've ever suffered though the unpleasant experience of being dumped in favour of a younger rival. The book almost comes across as a textbook on how to cope with this kind of crisis, and, since it's a first-person narrative, I often felt I was listening to a friend who'd been through it and come out relatively unscathed on the other side.

At the start of the book, Rose's whole world falls apart within the space of a few days. Her husband, Nathan, comes home from work and tells her that he's leaving her after 25 years of marriage. He's found someone else. She's still reeling from the blow when she receives the next one: the other woman is Rose's assistant. She's furious, and immediately calls her boss to say that he has to fire Minty, or at the very least move her somewhere else. No way can she continue to work with her. But on Monday the boss calls Rose into his office, and says he's been thinking about it. They want a new look for the books page, and they think Minty can give it to them. Since Nathan works for the same company, the logical solution is to let Rose go. It'll simplify everything. So Rose has lost both her husband and her job to a woman that she'd thought was her friend.

Obviously, it's not going to get much worse than this. I admired the way Rose dealt with her problems; here, in a few bullet-points, are what I thought were her most valuable pieces of advice.

- At first you'll be in so much pain that you'll wonder how it's possible to live though it. After a while, it will get better all by itself.

- Don't expect to be able to understand exactly why your husband left you. He probably doesn't know either, even if he believes he does.

- It's natural to hate your rival. It's more constructive to think of her as greedy and thoughtless.

- You may believe your rival has taken your whole life. In fact, though, you've spent decades with your husband and had many good times with him. Your rival can never gain access to those years, and they will eventually leave her feeling excluded. She'll come to realise that you understand him better than she does.

- Your children will spontaneously take your side and bitterly blame your husband for leaving you. This will hurt him far more than anything you could say or do, so you might as well not bother.

- Your rival may well want to start a new family. Your husband most likely doesn't. This will create tension between them.

- Don't even consider killing yourself. If you fail, you'll really wish you hadn't tried. If you succeed, the people who matter may not actually think that well of you afterwards.

Follow Rose's rules, and my guess is that you'll end up agreeing with her. Though I do think it's slightly optimistic to expect all of the following to happen:

- Your chic French friend will take you for an afternoon of shopping at the best designer boutiques in Paris, after which you'll suddenly have a wardrobe that transforms you into a svelte, head-turning siren.

- Shortly after acquiring your new outfit, you'll meet a handsome, successful old flame and be photographed with him in the daily papers.

- Your rival will turn up uninvited at your daughter's wedding and proceed to make a fool of herself by hanging creepily around wishing that she was part of your wonderful family.

- Your former boss will fire your rival from your old job because she can't do it, and ask you if you'd like to have it back.

- Immediately after that happens, you'll meet your rival and notice that she's put on weight and looks terrible.

Well, I understand that these are the conventions of the chick-lit genre and I won't criticise. In fact, I liked it enough that I think I'll read the sequel. Go chick-lit!