Wednesday 29 July 2015

Reviewed: Difficult Husbands by Mary de Laszlo.

Difficult Husbands was published by Bookouture on October 31, 2014.

Thanks to the publisher for auto-approving me for a copy of this book on Netgalley.

Difficult Husbands is not the book I had first been expecting. Although the synopsis isn’t misleading in any way, I had been expecting it to be treat in a more light-hearted fashion. Having said that, it only took me a couple of chapters before I was hooked and so fascinated with this story and three women’s plans to make their husbands disappear in time for Christmas, so they can enjoy the festive season, stress-free.

Lorna, Gloria and Rosalind are all at the end of their tether with the men in their lives. I half expected them to start a bitter wives club and hire a hitman, or something, they moaned about their fellas that much. Their husbands (or ex-husband in Lorna’s case), Stephen, Adrian and Ivan are a fair bit older and seemed to have reached the stage of taking their wives for granted, messing them about, turning to booze and seeing other women. I must say, I really couldn’t stand any of the husbands and so I loved reading about the ridiculous plan the women were concocting so they could spend a happy Christmas with their own families but without the husbands they despaired of. The first half of this book where Lorna, Gloria and Rosalind were plotting away was my favourite. They all knew it was a completely crazy idea but I laughed every time they questioned it, thinking, we can’t do this, can we? , because each time they got closer to deciding that actually, they could do it. They could lure their husbands to the big, crumbly country house of Ravenscourt that Lorna has inherited, keep them there over the festive period and leave themselves to enjoy Christmas, their husbands out of the way. It was so entertaining watching their plan get set up.

The setting of Ravenscourt was created so beautifully. I think, though it was out of condition and needed a lot of work, that was part of its appeal to me. Imagine, inheriting this huge, bountiful place that you could turn into anything you wanted. Lorna resented that everybody seemed set on telling her what she could or couldn’t do with the place and her protectiveness of Ravenscourt grew throughout the course of this book. She was sad about the state it was in but she wanted to be allowed to handle things in her own time and way, without other people taking over. I loved Mary’s description of the place. I just wanted to dive into the book and explore every little part for myself. The whole book really revolves around Ravenscourt, whether it was Lorna, Gloria and Rosalind plotting to send their husbands there or whether it was Lorna being wary of a guy called Nathan who at times seems far more interested in Ravenscourt than she would like (and in fact, I would say Lorna would have preferred Nathan to show a lot more interest in her rather than the place she had inherited).

The characters in this book were not people I could relate to but I did get to like a fair few of them. Lorna was my favourite of the three leading women and I sympathised with her as everything seemed to be happening at once in her life and she was struggling to cope. At times I wished she would stop being so hung up on Stephen, who sounded like a complete prat to me, but I could kind of understand where she was coming from because Stephen’s antics had changed the whole dynamics to her family and she missed them so. I did find the wives to be very frantic with their plans which at times appeared to be a bit desperate, and I was all for them finding a bit of girl power and telling all three husbands to sling their hooks because they seemed to suck any possible happiness out of their lives. I also would have liked to have seen more of Rosalind in this book because her story pales to Lorna and Gloria’s where it could have been built up to be so much more, or maybe even completely taken out of the book so Lorna and Gloria’s stories could have been developed more. I did like a lot of the various younger family members we meet throughout this book as they all seemed very realistic and full of life.

The second half to Difficult Husbands is far more dramatic than the first. Though the plans earlier on to trick Stephen, Adrian and Ivan into Ravenscourt for Christmas were refreshingly silly and funny, there’s a more serious tone to some of the other themes Mary explores in this book and thinking about them now, there were so many of them. Marriage, pregnancy, alcoholism, affairs, money, deceit and grief are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head and I thought they were all well built into the story. Through each chapter, we see how the friendship between Lorna, Gloria and Rosalind (which wasn’t perfect but believable, nonetheless) really was so vital to helping them get through their lives. Their support was always needed and they relied on each other a lot yet I wouldn’t have been surprised if they lost their rag with each other more whilst dealing with their ‘difficult husbands’. Difficult Husbands is in fact a huge understatement because I felt like they were way past the stage of being difficult. I can’t think of any redeeming qualities they had.

Difficult Husbands is set at Christmas though it won’t, I imagine, make you feel festive in any way. But I truly mean it when I say how much I enjoyed this book. It was crazy, fascinating and really a strong exploration of the strands that build a family and how when one is broken, the rest of it needs piecing back together too.

A kind-of crazy yet interesting story of three women plotting against their horrible husbands

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