… A review of a book, and an irresistible (for me) review of the illusive itch.
The Seven Year Itch, the second novel from Katie Morris, does exactly what it says on the tin… you may judge this book by its cover… Now that I’ve run out of phrases I will say that I enjoyed it. It didn’t challenge me, it didn’t push into new and undiscovered realms of my imagination, but when in search of a book that can entertain me on a twenty minute commute through London’s clammy underground twice a day, this was just perfect.
The story centres around Ellie, a stressed out mother and wife who is certainly feeling the itch that comes with a marriage that has lost any signs of excitement and spontaneity. (Although, was that ever really there?) Ellie married Jack, actor, and father to their young children, Jed and Maud, seven years ago. On the surface they look like a great family, add a dog and you have the perfect package along with their lovely London house and annoyingly perky au pair, Petra. However, money troubles create further tensions when Jack is no longer in a steady job and is instead hanging around the house, shirking responsibility for the children and being, well, generally self absorbed. Ellie plans to open a new cafe with friend, Tilda, finally something that she’s doing for herself, but things are never that simple… especially when a male distraction moves into the house opposite…
Unfortunately, Jack is painted as the typical man of the household who occasionally cooks, proud as a puppy that has just been potty trained, and is reluctant to take responsibility for his children. Ellie’s character suffers in a reaction to this as at times she comes across demanding, short tempered, cold and unloving. When Jack does show her attention, sometimes she just doesn’t have the energy or the willingness to reciprocate. On the one hand, I could feel frustrated with Ellie for not putting more effort into the marriage, but I felt that this book was more concerned with examining the other hand, which hopes that we will understand the actions of someone who has fallen into a lonely rut and has lost the will power to find a good way out, and consequently, finds a bad way. I found this telling of imperfect, irrational and illogical stupidity relatable; we all do things that we know we shouldn’t, but when pushed to the edge of a building, sometimes you just have to jump.
So, the book offers an unmarried reader a fairly bleak view of marriage. I was not entirely convinced by the idea of the seven year itch as a concept. I wonder whether, with this fictional marriage as an example, that it is not an itch, rather a belated realisation of incompatibility. It certainly made me think, and many people say, my marriage would be different, well, I say that too, my marriage will be different. We have to believe that. At least what this book did was highlight the importance of equality within a relationship, equality and the ever so boring but necessary, compromise.
The novel’s honesty and lack of faff and complication made this a charming read. It may have been a perfect commute companion, but it was also great to fall asleep to if you were lacking in company there too, sad but true! The characters were compelling and in the end we are reminded about the fragility of relationships, the weakness of human nature, and the inevitable discovery of secrets. It may not be for everyone; some may find Ellie utterly annoying which is a deal breaker in a first person narrative like this, but for me, I really, and effortlessly, enjoyed it.