Don't Get Me Wrong, by Marianne Kavanagh

>> Friday, March 11, 2016

TITLE: Don't Get Me Wrong
AUTHOR: Marianne Kavanagh

PAGES: 336
PUBLISHER: Atria/Emily Bestler Books

SETTING: Contemporary England
TYPE: Chick Lit / Romance

For fans of Jojo Moyes, David Nicholls, and Sophie Kinsella, here is a Pride and Prejudice for the modern era: Londoners Kim and Harry can’t see eye to eye... until the life of the person they both love most hangs in the balance.

Kim and Harry are total opposites who happen to have the same favorite people in the world: Kim’s older sister, Eva, and her young son, Otis. Kim has never seen what her free-spirited big sister sees in a stuck-up banker like Harry and has spent her childhood trying to keep him out (must he always drive the most ostentatious cars and insist on charming everyone he meets?), while Harry’s favorite occupation is provoking Kim.

Both Harry and Kim are too stuck in their prejudices to care about what’s really going on beneath the surface of each other’s lives. They’ll never understand each other—until the worst of all tragedy strikes. Faced with the possibilities of losing the person they both love most, long-buried secrets come to a head in ways that will change both Harry and Kim forever.

As in her “hilarious, poignant, and profound” (Daily Mail) novel For Once in My Life, Marianne Kavanagh tackles the bonds of family, friendship, and love through sophisticated storytelling. Don’t Get Me Wrong is a witty and heartwarming book that will charm readers everywhere.
Kim adores her older sister Eva, but she can't stand her best friend Harry, who's always hanging around when she wants some sister time. Harry is everything Kim despises: he's smooth and sophisticated and a rich banker, who's able to help Eva in ways Kim just can't. Everything he does seems designed to annoy Kim, and worst of all, he always comes out looking like the kind, reasonable one and she like an irrational shrew.

And then tragedy strikes, and Kim and Harry finally have to communicate.

The idea of this one really appealed to me... well, mostly the marketing did. I love Jojo Moyes, David Nicholls and Sophie Kinsella, and the sort of Pride and Prejudice plot that was promised seemed to be right up my street. It just didn't work. The book was baggy and directionless, and I found myself really, really annoyed by it.

My main problem was that I had issues with the politics of the book. Right from the beginning, Kim spouts opinions on things like vegetarianism, climate change, the value to society of investment bankers that are in essence actually quite close to my own. But Kavanagh makes her shrill and silly and oblivious and rude, not to mention humourless and clearly wrong, which annoyed me. Meanwhile, smug, charming, investment banker toff Harry is all conciliatory and lovely and it’s clear we readers are meant to be on his side.

It turns out the whole book is like that. All the lefties are hypocrites. Well, Kim isn’t, really, but she’s pretty stupid. And her first boyfriend Jake and the whole homeless charity they work for and all their friends through it turn out to be awful, basically spending all their time and effort bigging themselves up and screwing over other people. There is not one character who espouses left-wing political views that is a good person.

Meanwhile, all the investment bankers, from Harry to all his friends, and the one businessman character, are all lovely, sweet people. There’s Harry, who turns out to be practically a saint. There’s his ex girlfriend Titania, who's kind and really sweet. There’s the typical public schoolboy Giles, who turns out to be really decent. There’s Syed, who’s flawed, but like them, is kind and nice and it’s clear Kavanagh is fully on their side. There’s even a random ex colleague of Harry’s Kim meets in Newcastle. All lovely.

The relationship between Kim and Harry did not work for me either, not at all. Kim’s dislike is all based on misunderstandings that could have been cleared up in a 5 minute conversation... actually, they ARE cleared up in a 5 minute conversation, only 8 years too late. It was 8 years’ worth of suffering (really! the whole thing basically makes Kim hugely unhappy every minute she spends with her sister) for nothing. And actually, I had trouble believing that Eva, who knew what was going on, would never sit Kim down for a minute and tell her what was what. Instead, she was all vague and floaty and annoying. I think I was supposed to be oh-so-happy at the end, when they spoke. I was annoyed instead.

I was also particularly annoyed by how Kim was a total pushover with people who were completely awful to her. Her mother is the worst. Every now and then there are sections which are conversations with her mother, but only showing the mother’s part of the dialogue, and they are fucking painful. The woman is over-the-top and unbelievably deluded and selfish. Kim is aware of this, and she does acknowledge it in other conversations, but she never stands up to her. I lost a lot of respect for Kim over this, and there wasn’t much respect left to begin with. And whatever small portion was left after that was lost during her conversations with Jake, which followed the same pattern. Fucking doormat. Except with Harry, of course. She was all prickly with Harry.

Finally, I had some issues with the writing. The POV switches weren't handled very well. They were confusing, particularly the way it was mostly written in third person but often switched for long periods to first-person when portraying Kim thoughts. It was a bit disconcerting. The writing in general was also very unsubtle, and not just when making any sort of social or political point.

Not good!



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