Tish is married – and to a suitable husband. James, a solicitor in the family firm, seems good, solid, reliable good husband material. He is on good terms with her mother, which is more than Tish is, supports her while she writes romantic novels, and is eager to become a father. He agrees, eventually, to move to an idyllic, country cottage. The problem is that Tish is not that convinced. Part of her remembers her first love, the famous, or maybe infamous, Fergal, pop star, celebrity, notorious for his lifestyle of wine, women and song. She knows that she should make the most of her safe, orderly life with James, but somehow all her fictional heroes resemble Fergal far more than her “good husband”. This funny book, mainly narrated by Tish as James becomes less than attentive and indeed her life changes, brings in several other characters that are all beautifully depicted, ranging from her slightly disreputable grandmother to Fergal’s ambitious self appointed girlfriend. It is possible to visualize her cottage, its challenges and proximity to a village in this well written book, full of dialogue and thoughts that entertain and engage throughout.
The Prologue is written from the view of a young Fergal Rocco, remembering his first glimpse of Tish at seventeen, falling from a tree. A vision of beauty, trying to capture a bad tempered parrot. Twelve years later Tish observes that when she writes her novels as “Marian Plentifold”, all her heros “bear a definite (physical) resemblance to Fergal”. She manages to find and buy a cottage in the countryside, which means that James has a longer commute, and she will be living out of town without being able to drive. Owing to strange twists of fate, Fergal and Tish meet again in a hotel. Meanwhile, James is becoming more uncommunicative, abandoning Tish with a temperamental dog and parrot, refusing to eat what she cooks, staying away overnight and becoming obsessed with the local pub and radio building. The locals in the village include a strange neighbour, a local shopkeeper and a wealthy woman, Margaret who has her own agenda. When the local manor house is bought, things become even more lively for Tish, and her challenges seem to multiply. Will her grandmother plots help? Will her awful mother finally gang up with James? Why has he been spending so much time away?
This book dates back to 2000, so predates mobile phones and the internet being everywhere. Research is more complicated, communication more tricky, and instead of social media the newspapers and magazines carry all the celebrity gossip that Fergal attracts. There is a lot of subtle comedy here, and there are some wonderful set pieces between various characters. Despite his supposedly wild ways, Fergal comes over as a good man, who tries hard for those he likes. The novel overall is genuinely entertaining and the character of Tish grows with the book, overcoming challenges and maintaining her independence despite her qualms. I really enjoyed this book, and would strongly recommend it as a positive book with a basis in real life.
This sort of novel is a welcome distraction from other concerns, though there is a health scare in the story. It is very funny, with terrific characters and a lot more. Some characters demand sympathy, some dislike and others are just for fun. Even the animals add to the story. All part of the rich variety I am aiming for on this website!