"At 66 Star Street in Dublin, someone is watching over the lives of the people living in its flats. But no one is aware of it – yet . . .
One of them is ready to take the plunge and fall in love; another is torn between two very different lovers. For some, secrets they want to stay buried will come to light and for others, the unveiling of those secrets will have tragic consequences.
Fate is on its way to Star Street, bringing with it love and tragedy, friendship and heartbreak, and the power to change their lives in the most unexpected of ways . . ."
A small piece of warning: this review will not contain spoilers as such, but it will feature basic info about the characters and subjects that are tackled in the novel. If you do not wish to know anything about the novel until it's officially published, then please refrain from reading this review, which (as I said) will not be intended to spoil the book for anyone.
This will probably be a loooong review so I'll bold the most important bits for the tl;dr crowd, but feel free to just scroll down or close the page if you wish to remain surprised about everything regarding this novel.
Right, well, this book isn't out until October, but I was lucky enough to receive a proof of it, which in itself made me too happy for words (you can't even imagine), but I regret to say that the book didn't quite live up to my expectations (which were admittedly very, very high).
Firstly, you should know that this is *not* a chick-lit book, or at least I couldn't find any elements of chick-lit in it. I couldn't quite label it as it doesn't really fit into any of the specific genres (maybe general fiction?), but it appears that our beloved author is trying something new? Hmmm ...
The novel tells the story of people who live in the four apartments at 66 Star Street in Dublin: Maude & Matt, a strange couple; Katie, who is dating Kendall; a taxist Lydia and her Polish flatmates Andrei & Jan; an 88-year-old Jemima and her adopted son Fionn. Plot-wise, I must admit I rather struggled to read the first 500 pages and I was seriously wondering where the author was going with all that as it all seemed so random and unnecessarily detailed. I was all sort of confusing and (dare I say it) kinda boring. Sadly, I didn't find neither the characters nor the events interesting and I would've probably given up on it if it wasn't *the new MK*. Luckily, the novel really picked up in the last one hundred pages and then I really couldn't put it down so it made it all worth it, but I can't say that it wasn't a bit of a struggle.
Two things that make the novel unique and intriguing (but at the same time rather confusing at first) are the structure of the novel and narration. The so-called chapter titles are marked by the countdown of days so the so-called first chapter is Day 61 and then it ends with the last minutes of Day Zero. Now this would make it appears as if the story is going backwards (as I thought at first), but it's actually not - the story is moving forwards and the so-called chapter titles just mark the countdown of the remaining time (to put it vaguely).
Furthermore, the narrative voice is something special too and you don't really find out who the narrator actually is until the very end. Maybe you can guess it, but its identity and 'mission' aren't directly revealed until the last page (if you ignore the epilogue). Personally, I'm not sure if that was the best idea - I think the novel wouldn't be so confusing if more about the narrator was revealed earlier as that would've made the first bit easier to read, I guess. The plot itself may be a bit boring, but I quite enjoyed the narrative voice and its witty comments (written in a different font).
The two main problems that I had with this otherwise well-written novel (obviously, it's MK!) are the apparent randomness of the first 500 pages and especially the serious lack of humour.
Our beloved Ms Keyes is famous for making us all laugh out loud despite the grim subjects her books often tackle (e. g. Angels literally had me in tears, I don't think I've ever laughed so much because of a book), but I regret to say that this book hardly made me smile (even that was due to the narrator) and sadly the laughter was seemingly replaced by indifference, which was an unexpected disappointment. The novel had its moments, but I really missed the signature Keyes humour. As I said, maybe the author is trying something new - or maybe I just failed to be amused.
Furthermore, as I've mentioned before, I personally found the first 500 or so pages surprisingly boring, but then the book suddenly picked up and some serious drama occured, which shed more light on the events described before so that was good and more Keyes-like, but I would've never attributed the first 500 pages to Ms Keyes.
Through the stories of the main characters, several more serious topics are tackled (possibly spoilerish?), namely anxiety, dementia, rape, cancer, death and suicide. I thought these subjects were handled quite well (not surprisingly), but I wish most of them didn't occur until nearly the end of the book as I thought the beginning quite lacked action. I must admit that finally revealing these subjects made me feel for the characters more than I did at first, when I was quite indifferent to them.
I fully expected to rate this novel at least 5/5, but alas I cannot as I just didn't enjoy it as much as I enjoyed the author's other works. It breaks my heart to say this as I think Ms Keyes is brilliant, but I've decided to be honest - no offence, please. Perhaps I would've enjoyed it more if I read it again now that I know what the deal is, but I don't see myself doing that. However, I think spoilers might help make the novel more enjoyable so feel free to let me know if you want some, hehe. I do hope other fans will enjoy the novel more and I look forward to reading other reviews as they come - it should be interesting to see what readers make of it! Nonetheless, I wish Ms Keyes great success with this book as well as in the future.
overall rating: 3/5
plot: 3/5 | writing: 4/5 | characters: 3/5 | cover (of the proof): 5/5