Friday 21 February 2014

Book review : With or Without You - Helen Warner

Helen Warner's With or Without You tells the story of celeb journalist Martha Lamont who has the perfect life with a job that she loves, her devoted stay-at-home-dad husband Jamie and their two children, Mimi and Tom. Then one day, this charmed life unexpectedly implodes when she discovers explicit photos on Jamie's computer showing him and another woman having sex. Totally devastated, she heads off to LA with Charlie Simmons, the Hollywood actor whose memoirs she is currently working on, to give herself some much needed space to work out where to go from here.

The book is an interesting look at the impact of an affair on all parties. Jamie will go to the ends of the earth to prove to Martha that she can trust him again but can the pieces of a broken marriage ever really be stuck back together again? For most of the book, I couldn't decide whether to despise Jamie or feel sorry for him and this extended to Martha at times.

As a French/English family, it's been interesting seeing both points of view in the way the media has dealt with two recent high profile marital stories, those of French president François Hollande and more recently Barack Obama. When the photos of François Hollande driving his moped through the streets of Paris to visit his mistress, actress Julie Gayet, behind his First Lady's back, most French people were filled with contempt ... not for the unfaithful president or his mistress, but for the magazine who dared to publish such private photos ! As the rest of the world's media expressed surprise that the French really didn't seem that bothered by his infidelity, the French expressed surprise that the rest of the world were bothered or found it surprising that they didn't care! I bet there aren't many countries in the world where the mistress and secret daughter of a former president would stand side by side with the grieving widow and his legitimate children at his funeral but it happened for Mitterand ! Hot on the heels of the French president's extramarital indiscretions, the media started covering the seemingly unfounded claims that the American president had had a fling with Beyoncé and now that things aren't great with his wife. Again, the French attitude seems to be, "who cares? Let the man live his life as he sees fit. What's the big deal?". Hmm, I wonder how this book would be judged in France - making a mountain out of a molehill?!

The A-lister setting of LA and the sad tale of Charlie Simmons' own broken marriage inject some glitz and excitement into the story and add a parallel that shows that whatever your social status, personal problems are the same for everyone. Some details seemed unrealistic - surely a famous actress would have staff around and wouldn't need to call a complete stranger in her hour of need and a Hollywood A-lister would definitely be a bit more savvy about being papped - but it's an enjoyable, poignant but ultimately heartwarming story that all chicklit fans will love.

star rating : 4/5

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK (30 Jan 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1471100618
  • ISBN-13: 978-1471100611
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 13 x 3 cm

RRP : £7.99

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Book review : A Gift To Remember - Melissa Hill

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