I was sent a copy of A Better Man by Leah McLaren for review. The book is out today, and well worth a read.
The book is about a fairly well-to-do couple living in New York. Nick, the husband, runs his own advertising company which is doing well for itself. Although that means he can take his pick of which projects he works on, while still taking a cut from other projects his company works on… he doesn’t spend much time at home. His wife Maya gave up her career as a high-powered divorce lawyer when she had twins, who are now three years old. While she’s busy still breastfeeding her offspring in their family bed (Nick sleeps in the spare room), feeding them only organic, gluten free food and only allowing educational games during down-time, she still has a full-time nanny for them so that she can go to appointments with her personal trainer and get her highlights done.
Even when Nick is home, he’s not really present, and seems completely incapable of coping with his children; he leaves it up to Maya while he finds an excuse to leave! Maya wishes he would spend more time with them, but she’s also frustrated by his behaviour.
At the beginning of the book, Nick decides he wants a divorce. A consultation with a friend who works as a divorce lawyer leaves him convinced the only way to divorce Maya without ending up financially crippled is to first rebuild their relationship, get her back into work so that she’s able to support herself financially, and make their divorce more “equals parting ways” than “heartless husband leaves stay at home mum in the lurch” – so he’s likely to get off more lightly when it comes to the financial side of the divorce.
So Nick begins to make more of a concerted effort in his marriage. He takes Maya out for dinner, they go away on holiday, he encourages her to go back to work. But somewhere along the line, all that pretending he loves his wife ends up with him actually… loving his wife!
For a while, they are back in love, remembering they were a happily married couple before they became parents. Their marriage seems to be back on track, and everything seems perfect. But that would be a crappy ending to a book, wouldn’t it. And so, Maya finds out what Nick has been planning.
I absolutely loved the premise of this book; what a genius idea. It’s brilliantly written and so well described. The only thing I took issue with was that the 3-year-old twins often seemed to say things I wouldn’t expect a 3-year-old to be saying. For example, there’s a bit where one of them turns to his mother and comments that “even when Daddy’s here, it’s like he’s not really here” or something and I just couldn’t imagine a 3-year-old saying that.
The twins’ vocabulary is not a massive part of the story though, and the rest of what’s going on more than makes up for it. The characters are well developed, with lots of details added, and lots going on to adequately describe their lives.
I hated in The Da Vinci Code where the only way Dan Brown could shoe-horn in parts of the story was to have entire paragraphs where the protagonist stopped and thought about that time when he’d read that very detailed thing in that book about that very rare thing. It was such an obvious way of trying to get the detail in. A Better Man is brilliantly different to this. Rather than having Maya sit on the sofa having a long internal monologue about how tired her marriage has become, we see her getting unnecessarily flustered by fleeting moments of human contact from her hairdresser, or imagining her personal trainer watching her bum as she walks away. You can see how much she misses human contact, having hugs and kisses and affection, without it being spelled out and that is brilliant. I love a book that assumes I’m intelligent enough to get what the reader means, without it being entirely spelled out for me.
I’m delighted to say I have a copy of A Better Man to give away to one of my lucky readers. In order to enter the competition, please use the Rafflecopter below.
Thanks for reading.