This month's BritMums Book Club read was A Better Man by Leah McLaren. The front cover looks like classic hearts-and-flowers chick-lit but it offers a slightly more caustic and pragmatic look at life, love and divorce, without the rose-tinted spectacles that much chick-lit uses to filter out the nitty-gritty of real life.
The main characters in the book are Nick and Maya. On paper, they are the ultimate golden couple with everything they could possibly wish for. Even with Maya giving up her high-flying job as a lawyer to become a stay-at-home mum to their twins, they are wealthy enough to have a very comfortable lifestyle, complete with all the typical status symbols including second home, private nanny and personal trainer. Whether she's a lawyer or a mum, Maya wants to be at the top of her game, so she has taken attachment parenting to a new level. The ultimate earth mother, she puts so much effort into making sure her kids never ingest a single artificial additive or wear anything that isn't completely organic that she doesn't see that her marriage is falling apart. Nick has literally been pushed out of the marital bed by the twins while Maya is still breastfeeding, and I couldn't help but feel sorry for him. Maya takes her mothering so seriously that she becomes a caricature and it was hard to feel any real empathy for her.
My sympathy for Nick was short lived though. He decides he wants to divorce Maya but is horrified to learn just how much of a payout she will get. Encouraged by his friend and legal advisor, he comes up with a diabolical plan - acting as the perfect husband for a while, encouraging his (soon-to-be ex) wife to go back to work and proving how great a husband/daddy he can be, just so that the courts will look at him more sympathetically when the case goes to trial. The cold, calculating attitude required to pull this off left me feeling nothing but contempt for Nick.
I won't spoil it by telling you how it all unfolds but suffice to say that nobody comes out of it in a good light. I found all of the characters excessively selfish and blind to those around them, not to mention laughibly easily manipulated, so I didn't really care what happened to any of them. The final scene had me rolling my eyes - I'm still not sure if it's a show of great inner strength and faith or total weakness and gullibility.
It was a book that actually made me want to slap all of the main characters because they all have a lot of failings and very few redeeming features. The blurb on the back of the book gives away so much of the storyline that there is very little tension or suspense, but it is a great novel for book clubs to discuss because you can all pick apart the characters and argue over who is the most likeable, or least repulsive, character !
star rating : 3.5/5
RRP : £7.99
Disclosure : I received a copy of the book from BritMums book club, in order to write an honest review and take part in the discussion.