2016 Recommended books

The Good Guy by Susan Beale

 Source: Free review copy received from publisher

Five words from the blurb: marriage, deception, suburban, New England, intentions

The Good Guy is a fantastic debut. It is packed with passion and emotion; an example of what happens when an author has a personal story that they just have to write about.

The Good Guy is set in 1960s New England and is based on the author’s family history. It shows how Ted, a loving husband, becomes involved with another woman. The way society treated divorcees, single parents, and those who’ve had affairs was examined; giving an impressive insight into the culture of the era.

I loved the period detail. Events, like buying their first colour television set, were fascinating to me. I wasn’t born until the late 70s so it was interesting to discover their attitude to objects that we now take for granted. I suspect that those who did live through this decade will enjoy reminiscing about trying things like fondue for the first time and buying “bold orange and olive-green furnishings”!

I was also impressed by the structure of the novel – especially the way alternate chapters were written from the male and female perspective. This showed how misunderstandings in a relationship occur and allowed the reader to bond with all the characters involved. Many parts of the book reminded me of Night Waking by Sarah Moss, in that they showed the difficulties and isolation of childcare. It was interesting to compare the two books, showing what has (and hasn’t!) changed in the last 50 years.

Mindy scooped water up. Her face was bathe in confusion, as if she couldn’t understand why it dripped away. She tried again and again, pressing her hands together, closing the gaps between her fingers but the water always found its way out. Mindy’s brow furrowed in frustration that Abigail understood perfectly. It was just like her battle with the housework – every day, an endless to-do list of cooking, cleaning, laundry and grocery shopping. She never stopped and yet always, at the end of the day, her hands were empty.

My only problem with the novel was that it was too predictable. It accurately showed the way people reacted, and I admired the way the plot stayed focused, but I’d have liked to see a few additional story elements to complicate things a bit.

Overall this was an impressive piece of fiction. It perfectly captured 1960s suburban life and I look forward to watching this author’s career develop over the coming years.


4 replies on “The Good Guy by Susan Beale”

I’d be more interested in the setting and period details than the actual story, I think – the mention of the first time of trying a fondue, buying a colour TV and orange and olive-green furnishings caught my attention. But we didn’t buy in those days, we rented the TV and it was the wallpaper we had that was green patterned with gold (sounds yuk now) not the furniture. But fondue parties were definitely popular then.

Margaret, Yes, the period details in this book are fantastic! I’m quite sad I missed out on all the fondue parties. Perhaps the differences in renting/buying TVs are because this story is based in America? The character in this book was being very extravagant when he bought a TV, but I have no idea whether or not this was realistic. Hopefully it was at least possible 🙂

Interesting! Not being born until later either I like the sound of the detailing; that you’ve mentioned it sounds as though it’s quite a feature and it’s always good to learn. And I like the female/male perspective change, sounds quite involved in that way.

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