Tuesday 23 May 2017

Review: Love and Marriage by Patricia Scanlan

Transworld Ireland, €15.49, Hardback

Three cheers for Connie Adams, who is back in the arms of a hunky lover in Love and Marriage, the final part of Patricia Scanlan's bestselling trilogy.

Our feisty heroine coped valiantly with life's hard knocks in Forgive and Forget and later Happy Ever After, but now it's finally her turn to have a bit of fun.

Connie is heading for the big Five-O and she has never been happier, due in part to the presence of Drew, who sounds too good to be real: he is handsome, mature, caring and free. But in true Scanlan fashion, the storm clouds soon gather on the horizon. Love and Marriage reintroduces us to the characters we came to love in the previous two books but they are struggling in a recession-hit Ireland.

Connie's daughter Debbie and spoilt-brat hubby Bryan have been married only months, but already credit card debts and negative equity are threatening to end their marriage.

Debbie swallows her pride and seeks help from her estranged dad, Barry. He abandoned Connie when she was a baby and married the sophisticated career-obsessed Aimee. They now live a typical Celtic Tiger life of privilege and excess. But his world is cracking at the seams, too. It's bad enough that Aimee is expecting a baby she doesn't want but Barry has also taken a huge hit on the financial markets.

To make matters even worse, their teenage daughter Melissa won't eat a morsel and insists that nothing is wrong with her, even though she's growing more pale and wan by the day.

This is where Love and Marriage really comes into its own. Scanlan's portrayal of a teenager with anorexia is -- there's no other way of putting it -- gut-wrenching. The complexity of the illness and the torment endured by its sufferers is portrayed with a sensitivity and a seriousness that belies the 'chick-lit' tag.

Scanlan is not afraid to shine her searchlight on the hard stories of post-crash Ireland, but it is in the emotional arena that she excels. She draws all the strands together around Melissa and some of the most moving passages involve the unfortunate teenager.

For example, fusty consultant Ken shows a humble, kind side when he visits his granddaughter.

He, too, has had to cope with the lash of recession -- and an unhappy wife who is determined to separate. She would already have moved out if financial constraints hadn't stopped her.

For a moment, it seems the proximity will reunite them, which brings us neatly back to the central question posed by Scanlan: love and marriage -- do they always go together?

Well, yes . . . and sometimes no. You'll just have to read this page-turning, touching book to find out who stays together and who doesn't.

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