October 6, 2008

Bitten By the Revenge Bug


GOT YOU BACK by Jane Fallon. Penguin, 317pp, $37. Reviewed by Kay Forrester.

Lenny Henry made a stage skit out of the much-asked question, What's it like to live with Dawn-French-off- the-telly? Jane Fallon could do the same, as the partner of Ricky Gervais, famous as television's opinionated David Brent from The Office.

She fields questions about Gervais deftly - no, he is definitely not the model for the self-centred husband whose infidelity is the crux of her latest novel.

Fallon is no wallflower anyway, well used to success as an award- winning British television producer of series such as EastEnders and 20 Things to Do Before You're 30.

And her debut novel, Getting Rid of Matthew, was a bestseller of women's fiction in 2007, with Jennifer Aniston signing up for Hollywood's film adaptation.

In Got You Back she has adroitly dodged the dangers of the second- novel blues as she explores the subject of many a chick-lit novel: revenge.

Self-centred James has manipulated himself a double life, living part of the week in the city with his wife, Stephanie, and his young son and part in the country with his mistress, Katie. When Stephanie discovers James is cheating on her she contacts Katie, only to discover that she has also been deceived. Together the two women plot revenge.

Then Fallon adds an extra twist - one of the two decides enough is enough and moves on with her life. The other cannot stop.

Fallon's term for her genre is "chick noir" - chick lit with a black edge to it or, as she has described it, grown-up chick lit.

Get You Back is easy to read and the reader scoots through the 300-plus pages, following James' journey from minor deceits such as faking cooking gourmet dinners for friends and dodging building- consent requirements to more serious double- dealing such as avoiding tax payments and covering up operating-table mistakes in his job as a vet. He is pompous, manipulating, vain - and yet by the end of the book the reader is, if not cheering, at least hoping things might work out for him.

By contrast, one of the badly treated women, who starts by thinking only good of others, becomes almost the villainess as she cannot stop conniving, even when innocent old people and children are likely to be caught up in her plans.

This switch of roles and readers' empathy is what adds an extra bite to Fallon's entertaining storytelling.

* Kay Forrester is a sub-editor at The Press.

(c) 2008 Press, The; Christchurch, New Zealand. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.