Wednesday 29 May 2013

Review! The Stag and Hen Weekend by Mike Gayle

The Stag and Hen Weekend is the story of Phil and Helen, a couple in their thirties about to commit their lives to one another . . . that is of course if they can just manage to get through their respective stag and hen weekends (his: Amsterdam; hers: a country house and day spa in the Peak District) without falling apart. Told in the unique form of two separate stories that have common characters as well as themes and conclusion, The Stag and Hen Weekend can be read from front to back or from back to front putting the reader in the driver's seat as to which story they wish to read first. Feisty, fun and thought provoking.

Review: this book had been on my wish list for some time and so when I found out that I was going to be meeting Mike Gayle at a Brixton Library event, I bumped it straight to the top and actually downloaded the audio book so that I could read it in time to meet him. I loved the concept of having the dual narrative and making them completely separate books. Both stories do actually stand on their own, but you get more of an insight into the second one you read, having read the first one. I thought it was a concept which, although it has been done previously, hasn't been done for a while and is refreshing to find as a reader!

I have to say, I think I enjoyed the male side of the story more than the female side. This surprised me but I think it's because I found the character of Helen just a little bit irritating. She is very much a typical woman, so it's nothing wrong with the way she is written, but I just felt that, if I knew her, her inability to make a decision and her apparent need to revisit the past in the way she does, it seems as if she wants to have her cake and eat it and that annoyed me! Phials stag do was in Amsterdam, a city which I love, and I found the temptations that he faced very realistic, and the way he dealt with them just as realistic too!

The supporting characters in the novel are also strong. There are two main sub plots which only add to the twists and turns of the storyline, both involving other couples and these spam both parts of the book, again explaining why the books are two separate novels, but two separate novels that are joined together. The scenes and settings are described really well and I thought that the time period, setting it over the course of a weekend, was just right, the pace of the book was good.

I haven't read this kind of fiction written by a man before, but I really didn't feel, when reading it, that it was a man writing as a woman. This writer writes characters of both sexes in a very realistic and believable way, and hearing him speak at the library event, this is because he simply bases them on friends he has, and their partners. Although this is the first novel by this author I have read, I would definitely like to explore his other books Dan perhaps work my way through his back catalogue. Perhaps because this book is written by a male author, it will mean that more men will read this. I hope so because it is funny and insightful and would be a great choice for a male or female reader, a great one to whisk you away for the weekend!

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