Friday, November 7, 2014
Book Review: The Smart One
‘The Coffey siblings are having a rough year.
Claire has broken up with her fiancé and is hiding from her debts. Martha’s in a career crisis and even her therapist is losing patience with her. And Max, the baby of the family in his final year of college, is keeping a life-altering secret. Before long, all three of them have moved back home.
But things aren’t so easy the second time around. Martha and Claire regress to fighting over the shared bathroom while their mother continues to plan Claire’s thwarted wedding (unbeknownst to Claire). But it’s only a matter of time before Max’s secret comes out and changes all of their lives…’
(Synopsis courtesy of Amazon UK.)
I finished reading this book a couple of weeks ago now, and yet, to be honest, I still can’t quite decide how I feel about it! I enjoyed the premise of the book, it was easy to get into and I found it to be a page-turner but on the other hand this was in part because I was waiting for something to happen, or some answers, which never really came. I felt we really delved into the minds of Claire, Martha, Weezy (their mum) and Cleo (Max’s girlfriend) as we are presented with each of their viewpoints, but it took us so far, and I kind of felt left hanging a bit, particularly in terms of Martha and Weezy’s stories; but then it’s good that I wanted more, in a way!
I thought Max’s ‘secret’ was built up in the synopsis to be something more intriguing than it actually was, and the reaction to the ‘secret’ seemed outdated. At some points, I just wondered whether I’d missed something about this book being set in the past.
I was a bit ambivalent towards the characters, I liked Claire to begin with, and I liked Cleo but some of the characters were frustrating at times. If you accept this isn’t your usual problems and resolution type book the characters can be enjoyed for what they are: probably more normal and like us or people we know than we’d maybe like to admit, flawed, self-indulgent at times, vulnerable. Probably one of my frustrations was that various neuroses were displayed by some of the characters, but we were left to decide for ourselves what it meant, whether mental health issues, or perhaps physical health issues were at bay. I guess I just wanted to know for sure!
Character-wise though, I enjoyed seeing the different viewpoints, with each viewpoint adding something to your overall opinion of each of the characters, particularly in terms of Cleo who is a clear case of not judging a book by its cover. Whilst Weezy might seem like a typical empty-nester who is actually glad her children are back home to give her something to focus on and organise we slowly learn more about her back story, the different traits her children have already displayed become perhaps understandable, passing through the generations. I liked how this seeped through the novel. I also enjoyed the interactions between the different characters and felt this seemed very real and raw and representative of a family that perhaps seems ‘normal’ on the outside but which of course has its issues at the core. I particularly enjoyed the relationship between Claire and Martha, not a typical sisterly one.
If you’re looking for a character-driven novel that’s a bit different from the norm you may well enjoy The Smart One.
Thanks to Vintage for the book in exchange for an honest review.