Book Review: 5 Reasons to Leave a Lover by Carolyn Moncel
February 9, 2012 8 Comments
Full title: 5 Reasons to Leave a Lover: A Novella and Other Short Stories
Genre: contemporary fiction
First Published: 2011
I read this in: English, the original language
I got this book: for review from the author
Number of pages: 252
As you may know, I’m not a keen short story reader, but this book contains a novella of 186 pages followed by two much shorter stories. And indeed, while I appreciated the novella, I didn’t like the first short story and didn’t “get” the second one.
5 Reasons to Leave a Lover: What it is about
The first three reasons to leave a lover (from the Paul Simon song) are presented in the novella. Here, Ellery, an American woman living in Paris with her French husband and two daughters, finds a letter from which it is very clear that her husband has been cheating on her, and has been making plans to leave her and move in with his lover.
Ellery goes mad: she destroys most of his possessions, after which she tries to figure out how come Julien would have started cheating on her, and what she is to do next.
In the second story, Cinnamon is unhappy about the relationship her friend Steve has with Leah and hopes they will break up. But when they do, she isn’t sure where her loyalty should go.
In the third story, an old man finds his wife dead on the sofa and thinks back to when they met.
5 Reasons to Leave a Lover: What I thought
3 out of 5 stars In the novella, I liked the setting, Paris, which somehow makes the story more intriguing, cosmopolitan, a little sophisticated. I also liked the topic: a man is planning to leave his wife and we see the situation from his and her view point, as well as (briefly) from the lover’s point of view.
I found Ellery’s reaction, destroying more or less all of Julien’s possessions rather over the top, but we’re all different, and I’m sure there are people who would do that. In all other respects, she (and the other characters) were too reasonable. Most of the novella consists of thoughts by the characters about the situation, and they see things from more than one perspective at a time. I would think that in an angry moment, someone would only think unreasonable thoughts and then later in a sad moment, they would think that maybe they were wrong and things were not quite like that. But I think they wouldn’t think one thing, then negate that with another thought straight after.
I got confused with the timing: The book begins with Ellery finding the letter, but after that most of what happened took place before before this. It wasn’t always clear, though. Especially when Julien went to see his lover I was confused why he didn’t comment on the enormous mess Ellery had made in her angry mood. But then it turned out Julien went to see Katrine before Ellery found the letter. Anyway, a few times I was’t sure what happened when.
Overall, it was an interesting read about the break up of a couple.
As I mentioned, the second story I didn’t like, and that is because I felt cheated at the end. As a reader I had been thinking in a certain way and that didn’t fit the ending of the story. That could have been fun, sometimes in a story you get a realisation and you go: “O! I see. That’s clever!”. In this case though, I felt that I was misled. I don’t think it was realistic that Cinnamon would have been thinking so deeply about Steve and Leah’s break up. That didn’t work for me. The third story just ended, leaving me thinking that I missed something, and very likely I did (you know I’m a bit of a sloppy reader and I may well have missed some important clue in the story).
Extras: Another novel about marital breakup is First You Try Everything by Jane McCafferty, although the main character in that book goes to unrealistic (but funny) lengths to salvage her marriage. 5 Reasons to Leave a Lover is more realistic by far.