Paddy de Courcy, a suave, supposedly charming Irish politician, is the central character whom the four female main characters are associated with in Marian Keyes’ This Charming Man. Each woman tells about her connection with Paddy in a first-person point-of-view narrative. This really helps a reader to understand the characters and the part that Paddy plays in their lives. While this is a serious story, Keyes injects just enough humor into the story to make for a bearable but fascinating read, giving a realistic look at how depression, destructive relationships, and domestic violence can affect people’s lives.
The four women who tell their stories are Lola, Grace, Alicia, and Marnie. When it is announced that Paddy will be marrying Alicia, the other three tell about their own relationships with Paddy. Lola, a stylist, is especially upset - she was currently supposed to be Paddy’s love interest. When she finally gets Paddy to explain why their affair is not working, he tells her rather heartlessly that she would not make a good politician’s wife. Could it be her somewhat wacky lifestyle and purple hair? Lola thinks not, so her way of dealing with things is to run. She goes to live along the Irish coast where she meets an interesting group of people, including some transvestites. Lola’s story is told through her diary, which at times can be annoying to follow.
Marnie and Grace are twins. Grace is a strong woman and journalist who was involved with Paddy when she was a teenager, only to have him go off later with her twin sister. Even though she could see that Paddy’s relationship with Marnie was not a good one, Grace still has certain feelings for him. As much as she doesn’t want to be, she remains attracted to Paddy. Her feelings are so strong that they play a big part in ruining her own life in many ways.
Marnie, whose story is the saddest, allows Paddy to wreck her life as a hardworking housewife and mother. Marnie lives in what would look to be the perfect life with a lovely home and two children, but she hides a dark secret, and it is about to destroy her. When Alicia steals Paddy away from Marnie, Marnie spirals into her alcoholic death trap.
Alicia is not the most liked person in the book. She’s made out to be the villainess, but even her story is one that we know will be sad because of her relationship with the destructive, callous Paddy. She is a widow, conservative, well-off, and will make the perfect Mrs. Politician for Paddy de Courcy. All well and good for him, but what does Alicia get out of it?
How and what Paddy does with - and to - each of these women is what weaves the evil throughout this story. What happens to each “victim” and to Paddy keeps the reader turning pages. Will these women every find peace and resolution? Will they find satisfaction as a result of what happens to Paddy? Will Paddy win or be driven into his own hellish prison of evil? Readers who were not fans of Marian Keyes before will be after reading This Charming Man. Hopefully, they will also give her other books a read: they are not all this serious, but they are all this good.