Sunday, 15 February 2015

You Should Have Known, by Jean Hanff Korelitz

3 stars

Therapist Grace Reinhart Sachs is an incredibly self-satisfied snot. She's wealthy enough to never worry about money, with a Park Avenue apartment and Connecticut lake house, a son in private school and a paediatric oncologist husband (which, despite her protests to the contrary, she never gets tired of telling people about) and a job which allows her to sit in judgement of the poor choices which have led people to her practice. She's so good at this that she's written a book - You Should Have Known - in which everyone's relationship problems are shown to be their own damn fault for choosing assholes to marry in the first place.

Unfortunately for Grace, in the run-up to her book's publication, one of whom Grace sees as the less fortunate mothers at her son's school (whose own son must be on a scholarship as she doesn't wear cashmere or belong to the Yummy Mummy clique on the school committee) is horribly murdered. Not initially bothered as long as the school's reputation remains intact (that's what really matters, after all), Grace soon starts to unravel when the police start sniffing around and she realises that she doesn't know where her charming, handsome, paediatric oncologist husband is. And as the tissue of lies that was her happy marriage is shredded around her, she realises that she's never really known him at all.

Drawn in by the premise, I read most of this book in one setting whilst nursing a hangover that really only allowed me to move my eyes, and it might have been the hangover that prompted my misanthropic enjoyment of it - it wasn't the writing, the plot or the pacing (which were all decent enough, but could have done with a little tightening) but the fact that I could inwardly shriek with glee (it would have hurt too much to do so aloud) every time Grace discovered a new revelation that exposed the life she was so smug about as a not particularly well-crafted illusion.

This didn't just stop with her hubby as it soon became clear that this fantastically insightful therapist and self-considered expert on relationships actually had less insight than a shoe, and that she'd been wrong about virtually everything for her entire life.

I was disappointed that Grace didn't apply any of her book's insights to herself - I was hoping she might have started re-examining the warning signs from the early part of her relationship, but she never really got any further than listening to other people putting her misconceptions right, and I definitely didn't enjoy the too easy happy-ever-after she was gifted with, which would have rankled even if I hadn't been rejoicing in her downfall.

But, then again, this did make my hangover far easier to cope with and gave me an outlet for some of the less nice parts of my own personality (see aforementioned glee at the misfortune of smug bastards), so it has that going for it.

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