Author: Marian Keyes
Genre: Chick Lit (Mommy Lit)
On the day that Claire gives birth to her first child, her husband James informs her--in the recovery room--that he's leaving her for the wife of the downstairs neighbor. With few other options, Claire leaves London to stay at home with her hilariously dysfunctional family: her mother, father, and two of her four sisters--Helen, the dropdead gorgeous maneater, and Anna, the spaced-out bohemian--while she rides out her maternity leave and gets her head together. Riding out the initial anguish in a vodka-soaked state, Claire eventually emerges ready to get on with her life or patch things up with James. Unfortunately (or perhaps not) for Claire, James isn't calling--not even to check up on his baby daughter. Into the picture comes Adam, a hunk-ish friend of Helen's who is 5 years Claire's junior. Yet despite the attention Adam gets from women of all ages, he's drawn to Claire and her daughter Kate. There's a spark, and Claire--with some prodding from her mother--decides a fling might do her good. Instead, she finds herself becoming increasingly attracted to Adam. Everything comes to a screeching halt when James finally calls to work things out. Will Claire crawl back to James? Or will she find true love with Adam? SPOILER: Once we get to know James, we realize he's a total ass (though it takes Claire a bit longer to figure this out). Unfortunately, Adam is shocked that Claire is considering moving back to London to work things out. Claire comes to her senses, tells James where to stick it, and reconciles with Adam just in time for them to possibly continue their relationship in London.
Geographical Setting: London, England, and Dublin, Ireland
Time Period: contemporary (1995)
Series: first book in the Walsh Sisters series
Keyes is a masterful writer. While taking deft jabs at the stereotypical conventions of romantic novels, she opens up Claire's confused, yet intelligent, mind to the reader with real skill. Many say that few can match the ability of Keyes to tackle difficult situations on paper, and I can see why. Keyes slowly picks through the complexities of relationships with a surgeon's precision and a pleasant dose of wit. Her characters, main and secondary, jump from the page. While her sisters are a tad stereotypical, they still have depth. No one is two-dimensional. Setting isn't so important, but Keyes does a fabulous job capturing the maniacism of a house filled with four women, a baby, and one dad who's been cowed into doing all of the chores. The pace of the story is leisurely, but the plot compels you to keep turning pages. Immensely satisfying
Read-alikes: If you're interested in the exploits of Claire's non-Dublin-based sisters, try Rachel's Holiday (1998) about, you guessed it, her sister Rachel, Angels (2002) about her sister Margaret, and Anybody Out There? (2006) about her sister Anna (surely a novel about Helen will appear eventually). If you're interested in more chick lit set in Dublin, try Sheila O'Flanagan's He's Got to Go (2004) about a woman choosing (or not) to tolerate her cheating husband for the sake of her daughter. For humorous tales that tackle the subject of infidelity, try Lisa Jewell's Ralph's Party (2000) about the residents of a London brownstone who become mixed up in multiple love triangles, or Mameve Medwed's Host Family (2000) in which 42-year old Daisy recovers from her son's departure for college and her husband's departure with a French exchange student. For more humorous stories of emotional healing, try Sue Civil-Brown's Letting Loose (1998) about a woman named Jillie who escapes to Paradise Beach to start over and runs into a potpourri of troubles (and potential love), or Anna Maxted's Getting Over It (2000) about a women overcoming a plethora of troubles on the home and friend fronts with humor and insight. Consider also benchmark chick lit authors like Sophie Kinsella and Helen Fielding. Readers who enjoyed the humor and romance in Watermelon, might like Babyville by Jane Green which follows three friends who begin the novel looking only for relationships but have their lives changed by pregnancy. These women struggle with some of the same realizations that Claire comes to in Watermelon. Readers who enjoyed the witty dialog and quirky characters in Watermelon may enjoy Accidental Bride by Janice Harayda, about Lily Blair who is engaged to be married but is struggling with cold feet shortly before the wedding. This novel, like Watermelon, has a happy ending but also lots of complications before Lily finally finds happiness. He’s Got to Go by Sheila O’Flanagan might also appeal to a fan of Watermelon because of the main character’s ability to remain upbeat when confronted with difficult situations. He’s Got to Go features Nessa Riley, a character who must decide whether to stay with her cheating husband for the sake of her daughter or whether to leave him. Claire also has to decide whether it would be best for her daughter if she returned to James. Furthermore, O’Flanagan’s novel is also set in Dublin. Finally, I would suggest Irish Girls about Town: An Anthology of Short Stories, edited by Maeve Binchy, which is a collection of sixteen short stories by Irish women writers; these stories are all humorous chick lit stories about a woman’s search for romance and love and the complications they face along the way. There is also a story by Marian Keyes in this volume.
Red Flags: a dozen or so curse words, sexual situations, and a frank discussion of words for the male sex organ