Thursday, March 11, 2010

Review: The Brightest Star in the Sky by Marian Keyes

Last night I did a big no-no. I stayed up for two hours to read a book. Yes, delightful, but that put me up until after midnight by the time I graded a stack of papers that needed to be finished for today. It's delightful to fall into a book, but not good when you have to get up the next day! For some reason, I got sucked into the last 200 pages of Marian Keyes' novel The Brightest Star in the Sky, which I've been reading for quite awhile actually. It was good, but dense in language and story. Last night, however, I couldn't put it down until I had it all finished!

Synopsis: Summarizing this book is like trying to summarize history itself. Told in a fragmented narrative, we follow the lives of multiple characters living in one building. The narrator is some outside, limited omniscient, presence that speaks from time to time. Confused, well don't be. The narrator is another character in the story, but you spend much of the novel guessing as to its importance.

Throughout the story, you follow the lives of the different characters . As is familiar today, we watch one character's story, then move on to another, examining how they all intersect. In this story, they do all rub shoulders eventually, but not all for one overriding story. Each story is important. There is the old lady with her dog, the young TV gardening star, the young married couple who seem "old," the 40ish single professional woman (dating her boss, no less), and the 20ish female taxi driver and her two Polish roommates. All living in Dublin, all living separate lives, yet all affecting one another in strange ways, we watch the complicated ways these individuals deal with the challenges in their lives. As for the narrator, we later find out its role.

Review: I feel as though I couldn't have been any more obscure in my synopsis of the novel, and yet that is how the story plays out. It is a complicated web of characters and stories that must be kept straight. In the end, I couldn't put the book down. I wanted to find out what was going on, and how the narrator played into the story.

In beautiful language used to describe people and their thoughts, Keyes really pushed her characterization. There seemed to be this dance between what she wants the reader to think, and what the characters actually think. You always seem to be chasing the real meaning of the story. There were times that I felt the relationships to be unrealistic, that characters were schizophrenic in their dealings with one another, and in their own emotions. It also bothered me that characters such as the female taxi driver could be so angry at the world, disconnected with the love interests in her life, and so nonchalant about the anxieties she experienced. As with that character, you would just begin to feel like you understood the insecurities driving them, and they would turn around and do something that felt erratic and spontaneous, but in the opposite direction of what they wanted in life. Maybe that's really how we are as humans, always striving for happiness, but messing it up by going in the opposite direction?

Overall, I really liked this novel. I have a hard time placing it in a category or genre, but felt that its modern portrayal of characters and their lives to be fascinating. If you enjoy examining characters and their behaviors, then this book is perfect; it is a strange and interesting look at how humans behave, and why. For more information, see: The Brightest Star in the Sky.

*Book won as an Early Reviewers Advanced Copy from LibraryThing.

This read also counts towards the "Books Won" Challenge over at So Many Precious Books, So Little Time.


  1. I just adore Marian Keyes. I haven't read this one yet, but from your review I know I'm going to love it :)

  2. I've never read Marian Keyes, but I wouldn't have expected her books to be so complex like this. Don't just books by their covers, eh? :)

  3. I have been recommended Marian Keyes a few times since I started blogging, and I'll really have to read something of hers sometime soon. This sounds interesting, and a lot less "fluffy" than what I first thought Marian Keyes to be!

  4. I love Marian Keyes, but haven't read this one yet. I'll have to check it out.

  5. As an English teacher myself currently afloat on a pile of midterms, I had to smile at your rueful comment about reading instead of grading. One thing I learned from this review is that I didn't realize that switching from one character line to another is the new norm.

  6. It sounds like an interesting read — I kind of like the quiet cover in contrast to the title.