The Other Side of the Story is the first book by Marian Keyes that I have read. Her style is real, fresh and pointed. There were quite a few times I found myself laughing out loud and many times where I was smiling and clutching the book in anticipation of what would happen next.
This is a story with three sides: there is Gemma, the woman whose best friend stole her boyfriend, Lily, the woman who stole Gemma’s boyfriend, and Jojo, the literary agent in the is the middle-women between the two.
The book begins with Gemma, the hardworking party planner who looks after her elderly mother after her father leaves for a younger woman. The first 90 pages of Gemma’s side of the story is a little depressive, but this is just the prelude to how the web of the three women connects.
Jojo, the fabulous and red-lipstick wearing literary agent is sleeping with her boss, Mark Avery, and is the agent for Lily’s book.
Lily is a sweet-natured girl who wrote ‘Mimi’s Remedies’ to cheer herself up after she was mugged. Her boyfriend, Anton, and father of her child, Ema, gets her book published, which provides some unforeseen large income for their scarce earnings.
After leaving Gemma in Ireland, to move to London, Anton meets Lily. Gemma asks Lily, who also moved to London, to meet Anton to keep an eye on him to see if he met any other woman. Little did Gemma know that Anton’s next woman would be Lily.
What jumped out to me in particular, was Keyes’ use of sound. Although she was using words to describe the sounds, I could hear them. For example: “if she was in a film, a sax would play mournful, sexy notes whenever she appeared. She was gorgeous” and “each breath I took echoed loud and slow as if I was scuba diving.” This is a clever tool, which makes the experiences of the characters seem even more real.
Keyes includes email messages to tell some of the main action at the beginning of the book, which is refreshing and the change of medium makes the book more captivating.
She also has very detailed characters and she also uses this to incorporate other interesting formats of writing into the book. For example, Gemma lists her options (from a to e, for example), and this makes sense for her character who is a list maker by profession.
These writing techniques allow Keyes more room to develop her characters, change the visual layout of the text and give the readers a greater experience. Everything in the book is needed to tell the story. There is no extraneous text or sub-plots. Keyes divides the story up into sections by character. Each character lives her own life and the reader is thrown into each woman’s life a few chapters at a time. Keyes keeps the reader guessing as to which character she will come back to next.
The book focuses on the challenges faced by each of the women. Gemma with the challenge of taking care of her mother after the family trauma, while trying to get a gripe on her love life after Anton leaves her and gets together with her best friend. Jojo must figure out how to make partner at her agency while sleeping with the manager partner. Lily struggles to find peace and happiness after being unexpectedly hit with life altering events: being mugged and “stealing” her best friend’s boyfriend. In the end, all of the women are able to find their own solutions.
I enjoyed reading this book as an entire experience; from hearing the sounds of the action, seeing the email format and learning about each character and their side of the story. I will definitely be reading more from Marian Keyes.