Fans of Dr Who will know that Time Lords live for thousands of years, but routinely have to regenerate into a new body. While reading Really Good, Actually I felt as though the legendary Bridget Jones had regenerated into Maggie, a newly single 28-year-old living in Canada.
I mean that as the highest of compliments as this is one of the most enjoyable, smart, observant, honest and funny books I’ve read in recent years.
Maggie is getting divorced and living completely on her own for the first time ever – her ex, who she started dating aged 19, took the cat. “I wasn’t making some grand comeback to single life, this was my debut.”
Maggie thinks she is handling things well (hence the title). She downloads dating apps and has copious sex with both men and women, she has a hobby of “having hobbies” (for “void-avoidance”) and fills her time going to free introductory classes.
Thanks to technology there are now several outlets for making a holy show of yourself and Maggie avails herself of all of them – social media, texts, emails, WhatsApp. What Maggie sees as liberation her friends and family view as a breakdown.
Really Good, Actually accurately portrays life for modern young women who have to present so many faces to the world.
With a less talented author this could be grim, exhausting, and cliché-ridden, but Heisey is a wonderful writer with a distinctive wit.
The novel grabs you from the very first sentence and does not let go. The end is a surprise and a glorious one.
This isn’t just a book for young women either because, as Maggie says: “Not everyone is divorced but everyone has had their heart broken.”
‘Really Good, Actually’ by Monica Heisey, 4th Estate, €14