An Unsuitable Marriage by Colette Dartford
Publishing Date: 9th March 2017
Source: Received from the publisher in return for an honest review!
Number of pages: 384
Genre: Women’s Fiction, General Fiction (Adult)
When the worst happens, could your marriage survive? A sharp and emotional novel of a family under pressure, perfect for fans of Joanna Trollope and Hilary Boyd.
Olivia always thought she had the perfect family life. A loving husband in Geoffrey, a thoughtful and intelligent son in Edward and a beautiful home in the Somerset countryside.
But all that changed when Geoffrey’s business went under. Now penniless and homeless, Geoffrey is living with his recently widowed mother, whilst Olivia has been forced to take a job as housemistress at her son’s elite boarding school.
Soon the cracks in the relationship start to show. And, increasingly desperate, Geoffrey makes a mistake. One that could have consequences for the whole family . . .
I’ve read Colette Dartford’s debut novel “Learning to Speak American” some time ago and it was a steady, nice read so I really wanted to see how she managed with the dreaded second book. The synopsis to “An Unsuitable Marriage” is great, it sounds so chilling and I was sure it’s going to be a great read. However, this time, and I am sorry to say this, the story itself don’t do the synopsis justice. It’s not a bad read, not at all, and it has its moments, but it promises something that we, in fact, don’t get.
Olivia had everything – a doting husband, intelligent and talented son, Manor Farm house, money and no problems. But then her husband George goes bankrupt and everything in Olivia’s life changes – they find themselves homeless and with money troubles. So Olivia jumps at the chance of taking a place as a house parent at her son’s boarding school. Well, she doesn’t have a lot of choice, to be honest – either the job or living with George at his mother’s, and the two women never took to each other, and George has never stood up for his wife. As it usually happen, one trouble results in the next and there are really many problems on the horizon for Olivia and her family.
The characters were not the easiest to warm to – at least for me. However, while George seems to be stuck in the rut of living at home and finding new “hobbies”, at least Olivia is doing better, or she’s at least trying, she’s doing something. They are full of flaws, but that’s the thing that made them feel very realistic, however I had a feeling that there are too many flaws, especially in George. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure if those two were anytime good for each other. I’m not sure if they loved each other, and they got married because of Olivia getting pregnant and George’s parents being so conventional and traditional. So there was really not much keeping them together when the things turned out the difficult way, or was there? They also felt too wooden and I’d love to get more into their emotions. Yes, they were convincing in the way they were and acted but they lacked the depth that makes the characters more realistic and more possible for me to relate to and to understand them better.
I think that what mostly disappointed me is what the author has done to one of the most significant characters. It was so sudden and unexpected and for me it looked as if Ms Dartford perhaps didn’t know what to do with her or how to finish this subplot. I mean, I didn’t like her, this character, I despised her to be honest but doing this what the author’s done just clipped my wings. I was hoping for more complexion, and it just seemed that the author has made her life easier, too the easy way out instead of trying to complicate the story and finish it in a different way. It was just as if she wanted to got rid of the problem, to remove her out of the way.
This book lacked in something for me, and I can’t put my fingers on what it was exactly, there just wasn’t any spark that makes the reading exceptional. It was not a bad book, oh my word, of course not, but it was also not the one that wow – ed me. It shows the real world, how real marriages work but it just didn’t capture my attention. I also all the time had a feeling that the book is set in the United States, even though it was set in England, but I just had the feeling that the setting, the descriptions of the places, the boarding school is too American. It also seemed to me that the author wanted to touch upon too many issues in her story. They were very important issues, such as betrayals, marriages falling apart, bullying and sexual abuse and while some of them were relatively well developed, most of them was rather brushed over. What was brilliantly written and captured in the best possible way was the boarding school and the dynamics between parents and students. The bullying doesn’t start at school, it starts at home and the author has really smartly smuggled those information on to her pages. It is rather sad that it works that way but it is the way that it really is, and, ultimately, children suffer while parents play their own games.
So “An Unsuitable Marriage” is a story about new beginnings and finding courage. While it was not my favourite read, please do try it for yourself because what doesn’t work for me may work for you! I am also already waiting for Ms Dartford’s next book, as I am really intrigued what she has in store for us next.