Chick-lit grows up in this saga of two complicated families linked by a drunken one-night stand.
Scarlett O’Hara could have warned these women: Life goes on even if you’ve lost the man. In the second novel by stand-up comedian Eclair (Camberwell Beauty, 2006), 25-year-old Nina has landed a boyfriend, Joe, but now finds herself saddled with a toddler, two not-quite-step-kids (she and Joe aren’t any closer to marriage) and severe envy of her club-hopping single friends. Across London, Joe’s ex-wife, Hils, has begun to spread her wings with the publication of a memoir, Diary of a Divorcee, but aches acutely for her lost life, while clueless Alice refuses to see the truth about her cheating husband, Guy, or their unhappy children. Everyone is in transition, and despite the rather formulaic storytelling, Eclair builds suspense, particularly around Joe and Nina’s ambivalence about their not-yet-formalized union and their devil’s-spawn of a toddler, Freya. The domestic comedy rolls into action when Joe and Nina, along with all his children, end up at the same Italian villa as Alice’s brood. Alice’s unfaithful spouse, Guy, doesn’t handle his separation from his mistress well, and their troubled younger son starts acting up. The author indulges in some chick-lit excess, personifying the alternating narrators through their ease with profanity and using brand-names as shorthand for description. But she keeps the Manolo Blahnik references in check, and the voices, including that of insecure 13-year-old Tabitha, ring true. There’s little surprise as to how this will play out, although Eclair does keep two secrets to the end.
“Loving your children is easy, liking them is a bonus,” is as much of a moral as Eclair draws, but it goes down easily in her breezy, readable prose.