Thursday, 20 January 2011
I picked up Girlfriend 44 for a few reasons. The first is that Mark Barrowcliffe published his debut fantasy novel Wolfsangel under the name M D Lachlan last year - I loved that book, and was interested to see what he could do within a different genre. I'm also keen on men writing in the field of chick lit, since it seems to be an ideal way to see what men really are thinking! *grin* I was expecting a light, funny read that I could easily pick up and put down, and would be briefly amused by.
Rather than this, I got a biting portrayal of real life men in slightly farcical circumstances. The banter is bitter, the humour is puerile in the most part, and the men are distinctly unlikeable. But it does come across as incredibly realistic, as Barrowcliffe covers the ways in which men will dump women and the criteria they have for picking women.
The humour in the novel is uneven and scattershot, but I did find myself laughing out loud on more than one occasion. More often I was slightly mystified, but I suspect a guy would have been howling.
I enjoyed the characters, which are larger than life and easy to poke fun at. I rather marvelled at the idea that people like this exist (although a brief conversation with Mark revealed that he based Gerrard and Farley on real characters, which is a massive worry of mine - because it means they are out there walking the street, and there is a faint chance I might meet them by accident!)
What concerned me about this novel is how missold it seemed. It carries the sort of cover that shouts 'chick lit' and I was expecting something along the lines of Mike Gayle - cosy and sweet and trying to present the idea of men as being nice people who don't try to pull women just for the sex. Barrowcliffe is the vicious antidote to Gayle's saccharine sweetness, and it takes some effort to get through the initial shock and embrace the darker elements of the novel.
As I've come to expect from Mark, it was well-written (especially considering this one was his true debut in the literary world, although not too surprising if you take into account his journalistic background), but probably overlong at nigh on 500 pages.
I will seek out some more of Mark's earlier work, but I won't revisit this novel again! For a single 30-something girl, it hit a little too close to home *grins* If you want to read this, I would suggest that you make sure you're in a wonderful and warm, loving relationship and then tackle it - so that you don't end up scared at the prospect of encountering these men when you put yourself out there!