Someone Like You
Cathy Kelly is an Irish author whose first three novels were top bestsellers in Ireland. She writes women’s fiction, and each of her books centers around a group of female friends, all of whom go through important changes in their lives. Her fourth novel and her U.S. debut, Someone Like You, is no exception. Leonie, Emma and Hannah met on a cruise, and although they do not appear to have much in common, they keep in touch.
Welcome to the first meeting of Someone Like You Anonymous.
“Hi, I’m Emma and I’m a doormat. I live in the shadow of my sister. My father is a bullying bigot, and I’m worried about my mother who may be terribly ill. I’m happily married but desperate to conceive, which I won’t tell my husband Pete about.”
“I’m Hannah and I’m definitely not the maternal type. I’m a single careerwoman who oozes sex appeal and I’m determined to hold on to my independence. My problem is letting unreliable men take advantage of me – just don’t let me get started about my ex, Harry – but I’m dating a gorgeous actor called Felix right now. I have a new job and I haven’t had a panic attack for a while.”
“I’m Leonie and I’m a divorced mother of three teenagers. I’m fat and I hide my insecurities behind a thick layer of makeup and a brassy demeanour. My ex is getting married again to a gorgeous, rich American, and I’m jealous because my kids idolize her. My daughter Abby never used to give me any trouble but she’s been acting a little strangely lately. I’ve decided to try a bit of blind dating, since I’ve been lonely for some time. I really hope that there is someone out there for me.”
(The above is not quoted from the book.)
Someone Like You is a well written, smoothly flowing tale which alternates between the humorous and the melancholy. I found it often delightful, and I especially enjoyed the dialogue. The title suggests that most readers will be able to find some aspect in one of the women with which they can identify, and as the heroines are so different and struggle with so many different problems I expect it might be true (illiteracy and street violence are just about the only problems not crammed in).
The “three friends” approach is very popular in women’s fiction nowadays, but the problem with this structure for me is that the novel sometimes reads like three books in one. There’s Emma’s story, there’s Leonie’s story, and there’s Hannah’s story. There are only a few points, such as dinners or phone calls, in which the three plotlines intersect. Any one of of the three plotlines would have provided sufficient material for a novel all on its own. None of the numerous issues the three women face are dealt with very profoundly.
Leonie’s struggles with her teenagers and her inferiority complexes tasted of real life, and the descriptions of her work as a veterinary nurse were charming. But if only all teenagers with Abby’s problems could solve them as easily! Emma’s troubles got a much more superficial treatment than I would have liked. Hannah’s hot dates, sexy outfits and masculine disappointments interested me the least because all that was so familiar from other books about single thirtysomethings looking for Mr. Right. I could see plot twists coming from miles away.
Someone Like You is heavier reading than Kelly’s previous novels. If you don’t let that scare you you’ll find many rewarding moments. But I found it somewhat distracting to read a novel which attempts to resolve too many issues at once.