One for Sorrow, Two for Joy

In this week's Good Life column, Gemma tackles the question - which is better the book or the programme?

Having watched and fell in love with the Bridgerton series on Netflix (season 3 is now underway) I couldn’t wait to get the books and compare them to the on screen adaptation. While I was not disappointed with them, it was the first time I could ever say that my enjoyment of them matched what I watched. I was however, disappointed that instead of buying the second and third book in the collection, I managed to pick up two book twos with different covers. This sort of thing is typical of me.

Having planned to read the third book on my trip home to Cavan, I found myself browsing the airport’s book selection. I was drawn towards Elizabeth Day’s Magpie, with the presence of a silvery black feather contrasting towards an orange background on the cover. It reminded me of a friend at home who will always say “One for sorrow” each time we come across a magpie and then hope that we come across number two for joy. I’ve always of thought such things as a load of rubbish but who knows, some people live by them. I bought the book and started reading.

Sure enough the rhyme was present. Marisa, the protagonist, is attending a house viewing when a magpie swoops in, knocking a vase and smashing it to the floor. The intruder lingers for some time before finally exiting. Despite this, Marisa falls in love with the serenity and calmness that comes with the home particularly because it is so different from her childhood which has been filled with noise, both literally and metaphorically. She decides it will be the perfect place for her to start a family with her boyfriend Jake. Despite my earlier disagreeing with the rhyme, I found myself thinking that she should not have taken the house.

Marisa, having several failed relationships in the past, was delighted when she finally met Jake. They came across each other online and met at a theme party. They exchanged contact details and met for coffee on their first date. Marisa is shocked when it is he who brings up the subject of children. The man couldn’t be more perfect she decides; kind, good-looking, stable job and he has a comfortable presence about him. Soon after, they move in together despite Marisa’s closest friend Jas’ interjections that it is all too soon. She even has the audacity to bring up how situations like the present turned out in the past. But Marisa has a new life now, and she disregards her friends' comments as jealousy and decides that she no longer needs her in her life.

They try for a baby straight away, which has proven to be more difficult than what they both expected. Money becomes tight and Jake suggests taking in a new lodger to help the pair economise for their future. Marisa agrees despite herself, not liking the idea but also not wanting to add to their financial strain. The new tenant Kate arrives and does not delay in making herself at home not only in the house, but with Jake. She leaves her runners at the back door, she puts her toothbrush in the bathroom of the master bedroom, she speaks to Jake as if they have known each other for years and they are always laughing and making so much unnecessary noise.

A shift in the point of view in part two of the novel explains everything, with an amazing plot twist that left me re-reading the first part to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. I really wanted to give away the plot when reviewing this book but to give it away would destroy it. What I loved the most about this book was the insight it gave into mental illness. As someone who has always had a strong interest in this topic, I had no idea the mind could be so powerful. It also goes into depth on infertility and how couples struggle silently while the rest of society ignorantly wonder why they are together so long without a child. Honestly it gave me a new understanding of what some people have to go through.

No sooner had I put down the book that one of my work colleagues came down to the canteen. I was delighted to see her, she had returned home for a friend’s wedding. Before she left, she told me it was her first Catholic wedding and that she was expected to hand out leaflets.

“Leaflets for what?” she asked, genuinely confused.

I laughed and explained. Naturally I asked if she enjoyed the wedding. She had a great time, but found the mass a bit too much to handle. The topic of children was brought up several times throughout which she was unimpressed by, explaining how several people or even the bride and groom themselves could be struggling with infertility. She found it all a bit too pressurising for her, but a good experience nonetheless.

“But it lasted an hour and a half,” she exclaimed.

I was in stitches, we have all told her how her accent becomes extremely French when she is annoyed.

Getting back to the book, it really lives up to its genre as a psychological thriller. It made me consider things I would never have thought about before and showed the need for more compassion and consideration in this world. My only piece of advice would be to keep it to a day book, it does not help with sleeping too much.