Monday, 22 February 2016

Thomas and Mary by Tim Parks

review by Maryom

Thomas and Mary have been married for thirty years - and drifting out of love for almost the same length of  time. Now the children have grown, there doesn't seem any point in staying together. Tom embarks on a string of affairs. Mary gets a dog. Neither are happy with their lives but don't seem ready to give up on their relationship.
Thomas and Mary seems a rather bleak look at love - almost the opposite to a happy-ever-after rom-com - as over the years we see their once happy relationship crumble away. The story unfolds mainly from Tom's point of view, as he stumbles through life, trying his best to cope with the demands of both wife and girlfriends, his mother's terminal illness, or the problems of his teenage son. Tom, of course, justifies himself at every turn, but chapters narrated by others, such as an old friend, change the reader's perspective of events.

Although this is a close intimate view of Tom and Mary's world, it just didn't 'click' with me - I think because I didn't really engage with any of the characters. Tom comes over as incredibly indecisive and selfish, not merely in regard to his relationship with Mary, but with his girlfriends, mother and children too. Mary on the other hand was too easy going - seeming far too happy about Tom's affairs and always complacently confident that he'd return to her.
I've seen this book described as darkly humorous but it didn't really strike me that way, just as a rather sad tale of two people who'd be happier going their separate ways but finding themselves tied together by life and commitments.

Maryom's review - 3.5 stars
Publisher -
Harvill Secker
Genre -


  1. So you weren't too keen on a book with your namesake, Mary? The review in the Guardian wasn't so enthusiastic either. I just received my copy of this one today, so I'll see.

    1. Maybe I expect my namesake to behave as *I* would have done! Now I'm waiting to see if you agree......