Broke by Mandasue Heller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
When I won a free copy of this from Goodreads first reads I was pleased as it was an introduction to an author I've never even heard of never mind read. However when I received it and read on the cover the line "If you like Martina Cole you'll love MandaSue Heller and I thought "Oooer" because I HAVE tried Martina Cole and absolutely loathed her writing!
Anyway we were setting off for a weekend away and I grabbed this book to take with me as it happened to be lying on the coffee table, and on the way there as I sat in the passenger seat, I got it out and began reading - just to see what it was about ... and I finished it in less than 24 hours, which is quite unusual for me as I'm quite a slow reader. Safe to say then that its a very easy read - but also that its a real page turner as I didn't get sidetracked or distracted and it kept me wanting to know what was going on.
It was very different from most of the books I read - the characters in it inhabit a world I'm not really that familiar with (thank goodness) and I must say right from the start that I absolutely detested nearly all the characters, in fact most of them I held in the greatest contempt - but thats no bad thing - they must have been realistic to engender such strong feelings.
It's basically the story of Amy and begins on her wedding day to the revolting and despicable Mark, who starts married life having a knee trembler up against a wall with a ginger slapper called Jenny whilst the hapless Amy goes into labour - during the reception! Sounds a bit like a sit com but life for this couple and their friends is far from humour filled. Married life with a new baby for this barely old enough to be called adults couple presents difficulties galore and even as a few years pass Mark doesn't mature much, he is an idle so and so, more interested in going to the pub with his mates than giving the kids a goodnight hug and more addicted to a trip to the bookies than to turning up for work. Pity he's not a bit more like his mate Steve who is the only character in the book I had some time for.
Amy's life revolves around her kids, stuck at home all day with 2 toddlers it has to but she's no yummy mummy - sinking into boredom and letting the housework slip. But when Mark loses all his wages at the bookies and gets sacked into the bargain the cracks in this pairs marriage really split asunder.
Turning to dodgy money lender Lenny Yates seems to him to be the only answer but when he ends up on the wrong side of him he scarpers and leaves Amy to face the music and this is where Amy's real nightmare begins.
OMG most of these characters really are low lives and I never realised I was such a snob until I began to cringe every time one of them spoke. I didn't manage to dredge up a great deal of sympathy for Amy even though what she ends up going through is truly horrible, she is just a rather pathetic character. Rape, drugs, prostitution, gun crime, homelessness are all every day words in the world of Lenny Yates and she gets forced into this world.
I'm not really sure what the appeal of this kind of book is, maybe it's seeing how the other half lives and appreciating your own situation more as a result, but it did make compelling reading, lots going on and well constructed. I'll certainly keep an eye open for more books by this author, which is after all what the first reads programme is all about, so thankyou Goodreads for my free copy.
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