The other woman attempts to make amends in this debut novel from Fallon, a U.K. television producer and partner of comedian Ricky Gervais.
For four years, “nearly forty” Helen has been treading water watching those around her achieve, thrive and take risks. Helen prefers to be an observer and let things happen. Aimlessly she attaches herself to jobs and people that don’t suit her in an effort to approximate a grown-up life. Helen’s achievements are few: She holds a dead-end job as a personal assistant at a middling British PR firm, maintains one friendship, lives in a shabby apartment and has a very married boyfriend named Matthew. The novel centers around this illicit relationship. Matthew was Helen’s boss when he seduced her. He correctly identified her vulnerability and quickly insinuated himself into the role of lover. Matthew is a cad who relishes his roles as PR chieftain, smug married father of two and seducer of younger women (it becomes clear that Helen is but one of Matthew’s conquests). Nothing new up to this point, but thankfully the novel gets moving when Helen decides to dump Matthew. Here’s the twist: Rather than gaining her freedom, Helen gets a hirsute roommate. When Helen gives Matthew the brush off, he falls apart and comes back groveling. It seems Matthew would rather heave over his family and start life anew with his young mistress than face life as a dumped lover stuck in suburban hell. To get rid of her new and unwelcome flatmate, Helen devises a plan to befriend his estranged wife, Sophie, and get the couple back together. While madly scheming to return Matthew to his family nest, Helen befriends Sophie and starts to take responsibility for her misdeeds. Refreshingly, this heroine doesn’t waste time justifying her actions. Helen sees the error of her ways and sets about doing the right thing. Inevitably, she makes some comical missteps, but her heart remains in the right place. Fallon’s debut has bright spots: The leading lady is memorable (one of the few singletons not obsessed with her baby-making status) and the dialogue pops. Pacing seems to be the main flaw, as the action sags in the middle and never regains momentum.
Fallon’s debut is sharp enough, but a languishing plot dulls the author’s wit.