Friday heralds our online book group discussion with Leah McLaren – so in advance of that, her editor, Louise Cullen, wrote a blog piece for us on her experience of A Better Man…
I have a confession to make. I was not the editor to discover Leah McLaren. My former boss had acquired UK rights to A Better Man shortly before I came to work for her. In an attempt to look keen, when I started my new job I asked which novel she was most excited about, so I could also read and a mutual love-in could ensue. A Better Man was top of her list, but came with the slightly odd instruction of ‘But before you read it just go round and ask people here what they think of it.’ So, I did. Seeking out colleagues in sales, rights, publicity, marketing and various other departments I asked ‘So, what do you think of A Better Man? Any good?’ There was no way I was expecting the response received. Expletive laden comments about feckless husbands and how bloody hard it is to be a mum and have a career, sighs of despair about the familiarity that sets in when you’ve been with the same partner for a long time, and lots and lots of laughter. ‘Oh it is so, so funny’ and ‘Leah McLaren just gets it’. Intrigued was putting it mildly, so I delved in, and a short number of hours later I understood exactly what they were talking about.
A Better Man is a novel for anyone who has ever fallen in love, any person who has chosen to commit great swathes of time to building a life with someone, and anyone who has maybe looked at that person and thought: ‘Is this it?’ A straw poll amongst friends and colleagues revealed that this feeling is achingly familiar. When all the fun-filled dates, heady confessions of love, and lust, are over, when your weekends now consist mainly of keeping to a schedule of commitments and obligations, how do you retain that sense of passion and excitement? With effort, luck and faith in the fact that your foundations are solid, seems to be part of the answer. But what if one of you has that sinking feeling that things are just too far gone, and that the person you fell for has become a more tired looking, less carefree version of themselves, and that you can’t see a way to get back to the way things were? It’s not a pleasant scenario, but it happens. Leah McLaren has written a novel that gets to the heart of these questions. She has taken these most difficult to admit feelings and held a mirror up to them, and everyone who reads A Better Man sees at least part of themselves reflected back. It’s not always pretty, but it is honest, it is human and it is pretty damn funny too. Life is not a novel, and the answers can’t be plotted neatly or pithily defined, but in this amazing book, Leah has given me hope. Despite all the challenges, the late-night fears that creep in, people make it. They stay together, they change and find a new way to be, and they find a happiness in that space, not quite were they were before but in a somewhat new direction. A Better Man captured my heart, made me laugh, and helped me sleep a little easier at night. You’ve heard the love: now read it!
A Better Man is published by Corvus and is available now.