In Anna Maxted’s fourth novel, Being Committed, British private eye Hannah Lovekin thinks she’s pretty good at her job. She finds things out – straying spouses, fraudulent medical claims and the like. You’d think she’d be pretty in tune with what’s going on around her. But Hannah finds herself blindsided by a marriage proposal from Jason, her boyfriend of five years. Perfectly happy with their relationship as is, and skittish about marriage after having been divorced at age twenty, Hannah turns him down flat.
After finding out Jason’s already engaged to another woman within a few weeks, a woman with legendary domestic skills that include cooking and sewing, Hannah immediately has ex-girlfriend’s remorse. Begging Jason for another chance, he agrees, but on one condition: Hannah needs to clean out the emotional skeletons in her closet, starting with her ex-husband Jack. Little does Jason suspect, though, that Hannah’s is a walk-in closet.
While Hannah agrees to give it a superficial go, after a not-so-pleasant trip down memory lane with Jack, she decides she’s done all she can. But like a roller coaster, she finds it’s virtually impossible to stop once your car has started the downward spiral. Forced to finally reckon with her past, Hannah’s self-examination changes her outlook on life and her relationships with both friends and family.
Anna Maxted’s Being Committed follows in the traditional ‘chick lit’ genre in that Hannah Lovekin is a single woman in the city. And that’s where the similarity just about ends. Hannah is a bit more emotionally out of touch than most Bridget-Jones-type heroines, who at least have some minimal level of self-awareness. Hannah isn’t looking to get married, she’s not obsessed with her appearance (and apparently, in the opinion of her wedding-dress designer sister-in-law, it shows), and she’s not always on a diet (although after reading about what she eats in a day, you might want to go on one). Hannah simply doesn’t see that there’s much about her life that needs to be fixed. But when Jason’s ultimatum forces her to reexamine the possible reasons for her issues with commitment, Maxted does a great job of leading Hannah through the emotional minefield that has become her life, working out hang-ups she didn’t even know she had.
Maxted’s liberal use of British slang may put off some readers initially, but any unfamiliar words’ meaning is always clear from the context. Her writing style is brisk and funny, but the pace can make it difficult to connect with the characters. Perhaps it’s part of Maxted’s literary technique to drive home Hannah’s reluctance to open herself up to people, but that isn’t clearly obvious and so some readers might simply find Being Committed hard to commit to.
The book opens giving the impression that Being Committed is about Hannah trying to get her ex-boyfriend back, after realizing she was a fool to let him go, and turns into Hannah healing her emotional scars from childhood. Maxted handles Hannah Lovekin’s fear, or rather, outright rejection of commitment firmly but never harshly. The book’s humorous scenes and witty dialogue are nicely balanced by some serious soul-searching by Hannah, making for a well rounded and satisfying read with a little something for everyone.
Amy Brozio-Andrews is a freelance writer and book reviewer.
|© Melt Magazine 2004|