Review: Practical Jean by Trevor Cole

Title: Practical Jean

Author: Trevor Cole

Published: HarperPerennial October 2011

Synopsis: Jean Vale Horemarsh is an ordinary, small-town woman with the usual challenges of middle age. She’s content, mostly, with the life she’s built: a semi-successful career as a ceramics artist, a close collection of women friends (if you ignore the terrible falling out she had with Cheryl all those years ago), a comfortable marriage with a kind if otherwise unextraordinary man. And then Jean sees her mother go through the final devastating months of cancer, and realizes that her fondest wish is to protect her dearest friends from the indignities of aging and illness. That’s when she decides to kill them . . .

Status: Read on September 24, 2011 — I own a copy {Courtesy HaperCollins/NetGalley}

My Thoughts:

“Young woman…how can you possibly be a Horemarsh? You don’t have a practical gene in your body!” accuses Jean Vale Horemarsh’s mother, disapproving of Jean’s career as a ceramics artist, her choice of a husband and in fact, of Jean altogether. However after caring for her mother during the last three months of her life, Jean discovers her mother was wrong. An idea coalesces, a practical alternative to her mother’s agonising end, one that will spare her closest friends the indignities of aging. It’s practically the perfect plan.
Practical Jean is an entertaining novel with a quirky premise. The novel explores the themes of friendship, aging and quality of life with sharp observation and dark humour. The storyline stealthily spirals from the ordinary to the darkly absurd as Jean develops and then enacts her ‘exquisitely practical’ plan. I found the first quarter of the book to be a little slow to be honest but as Jean begins to evolve from an ordinary, if slightly eccentric, housewife and artist to a calculating serial killer I was constantly surprised by the direction Cole took his characters. Trying to provide her friends with a last moment of happiness before she murders them leads to some rather interesting situations.
Jean is an unexpectedly sympathetic protagonist. The juxtaposition of Jean’s whimsical sense of altruism and her practical actions is clever and though her thinking is undeniably skewed, her ‘Angel of Mercy’ motivation makes a weird kind of sense. Anyone who has nursed a loved one through the final painful stages of cancer would want to spare them the suffering, Jean just takes things a step too far.
The supporting characters are also full of surprises, in telling Jean’s story the author reveals the personalities that lurk beneath the surface.

Practical Jean is a black humoured satire that I enjoyed for its unpredictability and unique characters. Subtly layered and well crafted this novel is an entertaining read.

____________________

Available to Pre Order

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Mystica
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 12:31:20

    Sounds like the book for me.

    Like

    Reply

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