Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Book Review: Darren, Andrew and Mrs. Hall

By Sara Steven

A tale of two husbands, two wives, and the woman in between.

It is a June day and the rain is lashing down as Emma and Andrew move into the house of their dreams in an affluent London suburb. Two doors away, dejected Darren and Kelly are downsizing into their new home.

It doesn’t take long for the women to hit it off despite being opposites in many ways. Meanwhile Andrew, a teacher and poet, and Darren, an alarm systems installer, are at loggerheads from the word go.

When Emma and Kelly decide to take breaks away together – to a spa, a countryside retreat, the Scottish Highlands – their men feel abandoned. Their animosity grows and the loyalty to their wives is tested when Mrs. Hall moves in as their in-between neighbour. But who exactly is this woman and what game is she playing?

The wives return from a stay in Scotland to discover that a lot has changed. Will their marriages be robust enough to survive? (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

Darren, Andrew and Mrs. Hall reminded me of The Odd Couple, but with actual couples. Emma and Andrew appear to be the more “posh” couple, considering that both characters are teachers and Andrew is a published poet. Affluence appears to be a lot more important to them, more-so Andrew, which is why it’s a tough go for him in meeting Darren. Darren and his wife, Kelly, are a lot more down-to-earth and blue collar. This doesn’t deter Emma and Kelly from becoming instant friends, yet it provides a ton of issues between the men. It doesn’t appear they have much to bond over.

Both couples have been married for a very long time, their relationships feeling stagnant. It’s a big reason that the women decide to embark on trips together, where they can commiserate on shared experiences within their marriages. It was fun to see what would become of Andrew and Darren. If they might set aside their differences and forge a friendship while the wives are away, or not. That sentiment would come and go often within the book. When Mrs. Hall moves in between their houses, there are glimpses of The Seven Year Itch and Grumpy Old Men sprinkled within, particularly when both men try to gain the attention of the attractive woman who has sparked an interest in them both. Is this a sign of things to come? 

I felt the author did a great job of staying true to the characterizations. There’s a scene where Andrew and Darren get into a fight, and when Darren takes things too far, involving a poor outsider who had nothing to do with it, his response is to immediately insist on not apologizing, because it’s not his fault–it’s Andrew’s fault. Yet, later, when Andrew needs help, Darren is right there to do all he can for his “friend.” This is the sort of repeated pattern we see from Darren throughout the story; he comes off as a very rigid, unforgiving person, yet he’s there for those he cares about without any hesitation. Each character has their own set of do’s and don’ts and who they are and won’t be, and it stays consistent. Even if it’s to their own detriment.

There were some interesting moments shared between the women, too. I wasn’t sure at times where things were going with Emma and Kelly, particularly when they would go on their trips. It felt like there might potentially be something more there, so that was a twist. Ultimately, I enjoyed the gentle turbulence shared between the couples, focusing on real-life issues that are often present in relationships and often go unsaid.

Thanks to Rachel's Random Resources for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase Links:
Amazon US * Amazon UK

R J Gould writes contemporary fiction about relationships using a mix of wry humour and pathos to describe the tragi-comic life journeys of his protagonists. Darren, Andrew and Mrs. Hall is his eighth novel and follows The Engagement Party, Jack and Jill Went Downhill, Mid-life follies, The bench by Cromer beach, Nothing Man, Dream CafĂ©, and Then and Now. He has been published by Headline Accent and Lume Books and also self-publishes. Before becoming a full-time author he worked in the education and charity sectors. In addition to his addiction to telling stories, he has somewhat milder addictions to playing tennis, watching film noir cinema, completing Wordle and eating dried mango slices. He is a member of Cambridge Writers and the Romantic Novelists’ Association UK and lives in Cambridge, England.

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1 comment:

R J Gould said...

A big thanks to Sara for reading and reviewing my new novel - it is hugely appreciated.