Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Dorothy Koomson - The Cupid Effect

Ceri's given up hope of ever finding anyone who'll put up with her various idiosyncrasies. All her energies seem to have been diverted into solving other people's romantic problems. Is she always destined to play Cupid? Or can she use some of her powers where they're needed most - to help herself? 

Comment: On my return to my local library after the weeks in which is was closed due to the pandemic, this was the book I picked. I must say I was not looking for it on purpose and I knew some known friends who had read it didn't have such a high opinion on it as they did about other titles by the author.
However, let's just say the return to the library was slightly annoying and it was just easier to pick a book I knew where was and what style would be instead of playing with my patience trying to find something else.

In this story we meet Ceri D'Altoy, a young woman who decides to leave her old life behind and get back to the university, not as much to get her doctorate but to investigate and she is accepted but needs to teach too.
She is surprised her submission was accepted but she does go back to the place where she had studied and embarks on a new stage of her life.

Ceri is one of those people everyone connects with and looks for to get advice. The fact she studied psychology also helps but there's something about her that makes people want to be in her company, like a special strength that is found just because someone is near her.
The problem is, can she help herself with what she knows or only others can follow her advice?
Having read other books by this author I knew what to expect regarding this one in terms of writing. Again, the story flows easily, the scenes change in a quick and easy manner and the fact this is first person narrator (which usually annoys me) was not such a bother because the author does create likable characters or, at least, characters that one can find interesting to follow.

I'd say that what makes this story different from the other two I had previously read is the tone. This one does feel to be a little bit lighter in comparison but by no means much less dramatic. I guess the events and the tone they are shared is just a little less negative in some moments.
The writing style is the same and the main character does think about her issues just like the other protagonists did but yes, I could notice this plot wasn't so obviously centered on the protagonist.

The story is pretty simple, basically it follows Ceri on her daily routines and the people she meets and interacts with and how being near her might affect those people's reactions and choices. This sounds silly but I think we all have people we know that seem to have a different aura, that are easier to relate to, that we feel at ease with or that we can connect with more quickly.
Ceri is like this and the whole story is how she tries to avoid others from relying on her advice too much because the more she speaks, the more people might blame her if things don't go according to what she says, forgetting no matter good an advice, there are too many variables to just one single option being the right one all the time.
I mean, it was different enough to think such a character. I liked Ceri, her personality was one I could relate to (except her constant talk of her exes and sex and what should she say, etc) and I even liked the psychological elements on the things she said.

However, removing all the quirky and apparently obvious attempts to make this funnier than what it is, despite liking Ceri's "voice", this was still a story narrated by one person, complaining a lot about this and that and putting herself in the position of cupid, even if unaware.
It got to a point that yes, it was easy to read, but it wasn't necessarily amazing.
I've noticed before in other novels too, British characters drink a lot. Every time Ceri goes out she has drinks and do all the other characters. There is also talk of being drunk as a very normal thing - which is kind of is - but I must confess this is totally unappealing to me and was one element that put me off of liking the cast of characters more.

I know, I know, it's ridiculous to even notice this and it can be seen as something cultural, but there it is, I can't help but being a little less impressed when it's so often part of the characters' routines.
The goal of this novel was to present Ceri as a modern day cupid, someone that actually offers solutions to love issues. I can see why this is seen as problematic by some readers, hoping to find a more serious take on the supposed themes the novel seems to address. I found this tactic to be merely entertaining as the quirky factor was never really developed as such. This means the tone of the story is what's funnier about it, not as much the situations themselves. I just saw Ceri as someone with patience to listen, despite her rants on it, not as a special or magical person who can influence others' choices that much.

In the end, some subjects were left under developed and the last pages attempted to fix many loose threads but the fix did look as if the author wanted to get it done. One wonders, after several pages with vague and unnecessary stuff, why more time couldn't be dedicated to fix things properly.
Since Ceri is the narrator, some scenes just felt really unlikely told by her and once or twice I even thought she sounded a little conceited, something I'm certain wouldn't have been conveyed had the narrator been 3rd person.
All in all, this was cute, a little fluffy, not completely balanced in terms of ratio between narrator's voice and plot development but it did allow for some escapism hours.
Grade: 6/10

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