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Book giveaway: The Confusion of Karen Carpenter by Jonathan Harvey - apply for a free copy and join the discussion (CLOSED)

(48 Posts)
RebeccaSMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 17-Oct-13 11:58:48

We're giving away 50 copies of The Confusion of Karen Carpenter, a novel of joyful, riotous comedy by the award-winning playwright of Beautiful Thing and Coronation Street scriptwriter, Jonathan Harvey.

Having the same name as a '70s pop icon is just the start of Karen Carpenter's problems. After being dumped by her longstanding boyfriend (via a letter sellotaped to the kettle), the close and sympathetic scrutiny of her colleagues and her infuriating mum is becoming too much to bear.

Not one to mope around, Karen decides that the best way to get over her ex is to pick herself up and get back out there on the dating scene – which is not that easy after a relationship of 11 years.

Apply for a free copy and if you are one of the lucky 50, do come back to this thread to post your feedback and discuss the book.

aristocat Thu 17-Oct-13 16:04:11

Thank you for Gimme Gimme Gimme, it is one of the best TV shows ever! I hope I enjoy your book as much smile

directoroflegacy Sat 19-Oct-13 18:57:14

Hi, think I can relate to KC a bit, was once dumped on Valentines Day via a post it!

LegoCaltrops Sat 19-Oct-13 19:10:19

That's awful, Director! shock

I hope I get this one. I go through reading material faster than my budget will allow, & we've only got a small local library.

ShabbyButNotChic Tue 22-Oct-13 09:06:06

Ooh hope i get picked! Had this on my amazon wishlist for a while smile

RebeccaSMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 24-Oct-13 10:30:15

The book giveaway is now closed. We'll email the 50 people who have been selected to receive books as soon as we hear from the publishers that they have been sent out.

Oneforthemummy Wed 30-Oct-13 20:52:07

Received my copy today...looking forward to settling down with it later!

UniS Wed 30-Oct-13 21:55:45

Thank you, book has arrived and is on the stack to be read, going away for the weekend so I might get it started.

CaptainSweatPants Thu 31-Oct-13 21:30:32

2 chapters in & so far so good

Kind of surprised it's written by a bloke, seems a bit chick lit & from cover thought a woman had written it

He's got a great insight into a female character

NoWomanNoCry Thu 31-Oct-13 21:39:44

Thank you for my free copy, definitely looking forward to reading this. Will post a review when finished.

DuchessofMalfi Sat 02-Nov-13 09:31:02

Thank you for my copy. Hoping to get started shortly once I've finished my current book smile

gailforce1 Sat 02-Nov-13 16:10:09

My copy has just arrived - thank you. Looking forward to curling up with this on a dark, wet evening!

received the book on thursday - thank you! i've just finished it

it's an easy, quick read, though i found the tone a bit irritating at first, but actually it became clear later on that that was almost certainly deliberate on the part of the author as it reflected the character's state of mind and circumstances

there are lots of genuinely amusing and genuinely sad bits

the 'reveal' (for want of a better word) was fairly clearly signalled i thought, and i had worked out what had happened within a couple of chapters, but that didn't spoil the enjoyment of reading how it played out by any means

the supporting characters are entertaining though perhaps not terribly believable if i'm honest, but it's difficult to say whether that's because it's written in the first person and she is going through a traumatic period in her life. however, they were amusing in any case

i don't want to post too much before other people have read it as i don't want to spoil anything. the only thing i would say is that unless i have read things wrong, there are two fairly significant copyediting errors - one being the blurb on the back (and in the OP here) that the relationship was eleven years (in the first chapter she says it is nearly twenty years), and the other being on page 275 where i think the year should be 2011 rather than 2012 (don't want to go into any more detail). this may be me reading things incorrectly, but both these things confused me and took me out of the story

overall i thought it was an accessible and funny account of how people might deal with traumatic experiences, with overarching themes about lying to oneself and others

CaptainSweatPants Sun 03-Nov-13 10:30:17

Just finished it
Completely agree with everything willie said
I think it's a great light hearted read, I got a bit bored half way through but I'm glad I kept reading
Thinking of buying a copy for my sisters Xmas present

SterlingCooperDraperPryce Sun 03-Nov-13 15:51:34

Thanks for this. Am a few chapters in and agree with another poster, it's a bit chick litty. I'm finding the main character fairly irritating if im honest but maybe all will become clear soon. I'm not finding it a page turner at the moment.....

SterlingCooperDraperPryce Sun 03-Nov-13 15:52:27

Also id she's thst bothered about her name, why not just change it be deed poll?

Loveitall Sun 03-Nov-13 16:36:41

Received the book and am looking forward to reading it.

DuchessofMalfi Sun 03-Nov-13 22:41:49

Started reading it this evening. 50 pages in so far and am enjoying it. Looking forward to reading on, tomorrow smile

Oneforthemummy Mon 04-Nov-13 14:50:12

I finished 'The Confusion...' this morning - it is a quick, easy read and absolutely a chick-lit novel. I always struggle a bit with male authors writing female protagonists (and vice versa) - I can't help thinking 'pah! that's not really something a woman would say/do/feel' much more often than I do when reading a female author writing about a female protagonist. I am sure this is all in my head and I would be utterly fooled by a pseudonym, but I do find it distracting. There were also a number of storylines and characters that I ultimately found pretty pointless (Meredith & Ethleen? The whole Karen Carpenter thing?) and much was skimmed over (Kevin, Mum & Dad) - probably because there was too much there in the first place.

I did enjoy this book, although I also noticed a few irritating mistakes (like Willie did) - in particular the spelling of 'pegunda' and 'pagunda' (around which a whole joke was based). It was much more 'chick lit' than I was expecting and I struggled with the protagonist being (more or less) my age as I found I was constantly comparing and just felt she came across as a much younger person.

My overall impression was that this would be much better as a TV series (perhaps partly because I know the author is a tv writer). Much of the humour was physical and I felt sometimes the author was having to explain things that wouldn't need explanation if the medium was visual.

I don't want to give anything away about the book so have to tread carefully, but I did find the comic/serious elements detracted from each other - it was hard to find it funny once you knew the underlying serious storyline and I felt like the serious storyline was undermined by the comedy. A very fine balance to strike, and I am not sure this novel did it particularly well; having said that I was more moved by the serious storyline than I was amused by the comedy.

So, it's a fun, easy read, but I get the feeling I will have forgotten it very quickly sad

CaptainSweatPants Mon 04-Nov-13 17:46:27

I agree the humour was a bit ott at times

I didn't guess the big reveal either & felt a bit blush because looking back it was pretty obvious

Oneforthemummy Mon 04-Nov-13 18:11:57

Don't worry Captain - I didn't guess the reveal and although it did seem obvious looking back, I didn't think it was particularly plausible. There didn't seem to be any hint of tragedy behind her crazy behaviour, but maybe that says more about my lack of understanding than the writing?

Loveitall Tue 05-Nov-13 06:48:41

I'm only a few pages in at the mo. First thoughts were that some chick lit books (of which I am a huge fan) draw me in instantly and I can't put the book down, so far, this isn't one of them. I will be interested to see when i am drawn into the book.

NoWomanNoCry Tue 05-Nov-13 12:52:11

Just an update, I am a third of the way through this book and I am enjoying this at the moment. A funny read! smile

wetaugust Thu 07-Nov-13 00:30:18

I'm about half way through the book.

It's written in a chatty, matter of fact manner that made it easy to get into. I found it a bit too chick-litty. There are some musings that I've seen on MN, so perhaps the author has visied us?

So far it reminds me of a sort of Bridget Jones' with a 'To Do List' - must find a new bloke, must get laid etc.

I'm finding its style very meandering and introverted. Also noticed the pag/pegunda error. I think it will date quite quickly as it's full of contemporary references e.g. 'mother really did go to Iceland'.

Some parts are amusing rather than funny, however some of the comedy, I felt, fell flat .

It passes my test - i.e. I don't regret reading it.

I'll let you know if my views change when I've finished the book.

SterlingCooperDraperPryce Thu 07-Nov-13 07:27:11

Well I finished and also guessed the big reveal. I also have to confess to skipping quite a few chapters in the middle because I found it too slow and boring! I picked up the story again fine which tells me this story could have been a lot shorter.

NoWomanNoCry Thu 07-Nov-13 12:52:32

Just finished 'The Confusion of Karen Carpenter'. After reading the comments left about it, I am a bit surprised as I really enjoyed this book. True, it could be a bit shorter and there is too much joking but it was a good read with a twist I did not guess. I will definitely look out for more books by Jonathan Harvey. Thank you for the free copy.

wetaugust Fri 08-Nov-13 13:44:14

I posted my 'mid-way-through-the-book' thoughts upthread.

The second half of the book was really quite depressing.

**Spoiler alert*****

I learnt about Evie and then Michael's fate. Any humour was totally lost on me after that.

I felt quite cheated at the end as it felt from the number of remaining unread pages that I had at least another chapter of the book to read, only to find the book had ended and the remaining pages were the first chapter of another of the author's books.

Too meandering and the narrative felt too much like 'writing down everything that comes into your head' for me. But thank you for sending me the copy.

helenajane Fri 08-Nov-13 14:53:16

Not really my kind of book .. but i plodded on, skipping where i could. I felt it got stuck in places but overall, a book to appeal to the teens maybe, funny in places & easy to read. A good tv series, maybe ..

CarolLesley Sat 09-Nov-13 10:39:14

Thank you for the book. I am about a third of the way through and am finding it rather irritating, particularly characterisation and plot. It is true it is an easy read but is not really holding my attention - last night I picked up a new book rather than carry on with KC. I will try to persevere but when I want a light read, it needs to be a book which is a pleasure rather than a chore... .

jumpingjojo Sun 10-Nov-13 22:43:01

Thanks for the book. I found it quite easy to read and enjoyed the light humour it offered to begin with. I hadn't really figured out what was going on so was a little surprised when I discovered what really happened. I didn't particularly appreciate that turn as I feel there is enough of that in real life without having to read about it as well.

Dianec67 Mon 11-Nov-13 09:46:08

I absolutely loved this book. It is not the type of book I would normally read but I found it very funny (must be on the same wavelength as the author)! I had to keep reminding myself that it was written by a man as Karen's characterization is very observant for a male author. I would recommend this book especially to fans of Bridget Jones who I think would enjoy it.

DuchessofMalfi Tue 12-Nov-13 13:47:54

I finished reading it this morning. I had a pretty good idea where the plot was headed, so the twist didn't come as a huge surprise. Not that I liked it though.

Some pretty heavyweight subjects to be dealt with in what was, seemingly, a lightweight novel. The bit about the baby I thought was upsetting. Wish that hadn't been there.

I did wonder how much research Jonathan Harvey had done into grief and its various manifestations. At some points it seemed completely unbelievable, and in others I could see how that could happen to a person like Karen, in denial. But I kept wanting to give her a bloody good shake at times. Her behaviour began to irritate me.

Thank you to Mumsnet and to the publishers for my copy.

UniS Tue 12-Nov-13 22:57:46

I started this book about a week ago. I'm maybe a third of the way through and I'm not sure I'll bother to finish it. The lead character is not grabbing me in any way. I'm annoyed at some of the trite characterisation and the cliches that are cropping up again and again.

If I saw this book on a shelf in the library I wouldn't have picked it up. The cover and blurb makes it look like chick lit and I'm not a big fan of that. I'm not yet getting the relevance of " Karen Carpenter", may be I'm too young, but its not a name that has connotations to me, I don't think of a famous pop singer when I hear that name and I have very little idea what KC the singer looked like.

If I get round to finishing the story off I'll post again, but at present a copy of Clare Balding's Auto-biography is more interesting.

UniS Thu 14-Nov-13 23:25:13

OK, finished Clare Balding's rather interesting book and got back to finish TCoKC.

Very much a book of two half’s, the first half bored me and the second half didn't so much. I still don't get why it was big deal that she was named Karen Carpenter. and having not seen the film concerned I didn't get references around Kevin either.
In my opinion the book is lightweight but trying to tackle some heavy themes and I don't think it quite succeeds. The wrap up seems to happen very fast and smoothly. It's not a book I'll be recommending to any one and its still not a book I would pick up in the library or book shop. I'm not planning on keeping it for a re-read, sorry Jonathan.

BOF Thu 14-Nov-13 23:37:00

I adored it. Read it on kindle this week, in a day.

Maybe it was because I was a bit PMTish, and I'd had an emotional 24 hours with that kidnapping stuff (thread here), but I sobbed my heart out for a solid hour.

I'd love to see it as a film. Very Truly Madly Deeply.

BlackbeltinBS Sat 16-Nov-13 20:18:38

I agree with what someone said above about why it was such a big deal her name was Karen Carpenter. I know who KC was and it didn't seem believable that after all these years she'd still have had such an issue about it since I'm sure most people wouldn't link her with the singer (or have heard of her). Maybe it's supposed to be a pointer to how she is obsessing about little things and missing the big picture - but it just irritated me.

Kevin's big reveal left me completely cold because I'd never seen the film. Even Googling now I'm not sure I get that bit.

I'm not really a chick lit kind of person and the first half of the book reinforced that, the tone grated a bit. Then the twist just confused me to be honest - the abrupt change and then the return to the previous jokeyness was just a bit odd. I didn't see the twist coming and I did want to reread a bit to see what I'd missed. Came to the conclusion I had missed what was going on because I didn't actually like the character enough to read with more than half my brain, but I did keep looking back at the cover and the blurb, thinking, wow, how can a book be so misleading? I'd be v pissed off if I'd bought it on the strength of liking the first few chapters and thought it was a light read to take on holiday.

Kareva Sat 16-Nov-13 23:27:17

I'm confused..never mind kc...about Kevin's identity... The Ira part ,,, anybody help???

Kareva Sun 17-Nov-13 00:01:15

Who was Steven McIntyre ?

DuchessofMalfi Sun 17-Nov-13 09:59:11

Didn't it say that Kevin was a bit part actor/film extra when he was younger? I assumed that the fake driving licence with the false ID was a memento he kept from an acting job, and Karen got hold of the wrong end of the stick assuming he was an IRA terrorist grin (As if they would have membership ID cards!)

Kareva Sun 17-Nov-13 13:10:38

Thanx ... Oops don't remember that bit!!

reddoor23 Sun 17-Nov-13 20:31:25

Hello. Very first message on Mumsnet. Feel nervous! Won one of the free give-aways of the book by Johnathan Harvey; "The Confusion of Karen Carpenter". Won't give too much away for those who haven't read it yet - however can say the author has a well-honed sense of humour and empathy for his female character. Funny and sad in equal measure - have already leant it to my sister to read!

BOF Sun 17-Nov-13 20:34:15

Wasn't it good, reddoor? Not great literature, but very moving.

celestialbows Wed 20-Nov-13 10:02:38

I was chuffed to receive this book, my mood dipped quite early on,when I reached the section about Karen's mum: the puppet fiasco and taking her daughter to visit corpses in the chapel of rest.
Not one to give up at the first hurdle I laboured on despite dropping the whole book in the bath and it having dried fat and crinkly in the airing cupboard.
Elements of the story were engrossing but there were too many silly bits for me, lebians and swingers included.

It wasn't until the big reveal , possibly the final quarter of the book where I started to appreciate it, the chapter about saying goodbye to Husband and daughter had me sobbing and completely redeemed the book for me, the grief and bereavement was well written, and made me think twice about passing the book on, I might keep it just go read the goodbye in the park scene whenever I'm having a maudlin day!

Sunshineonsea Fri 22-Nov-13 21:36:25

I enjoyed the book, I actually liked the humour, it portrayed how Karen was dealing with the grief, some parts of the story seemed irrelevant but became clear once the story came to a close
My only criticism is that maybe it could've been shortened in the middle a little, I do like to read chick-lit so kept reading but I think people who are not fans of this genre so much wouldn't finish the story.
Overall I enjoyed the story, I liked the characters, found the story an easy read and was in tears by the end
Thanks you to the publishers and MN for sending the book smile

SweetPenelope Mon 25-Nov-13 09:14:58

The book was funny and quite enjoyable. The first half was quite 'chick lit' which isn't my thing, but it had some funny descriptions especially of Mungo and his wife (funny but not very believable). Loved the recipe for spinach pie.

I didn't see the 'reveal' coming so I was surprised by it.

The second half was sadder, but the ghost stuff was a bit silly. I did find the bit about Evie in the park moving.

It was nice that she ended up with lovely Kevin (Chinese lanterns - I kept thinking of the fire hazard!), but I think a woman of 36, who'd had a stillbirth would be concerned about getting together with a man who's infertile. This was never even mentioned as a concern and I think that's unrealistic.

areyoutheregoditsmemargaret Mon 09-Dec-13 18:47:59

Sorry to be late to this, and thank you for the book. I quite liked it. It read like many (superior) chick lits to me, very readable, endearing characters, funnyish - but I felt I'd read it all before in some form or other.
The broad comedy: swingers, lesbians, was the worst aspect, the best was Karen's emotional journey (though agree, I didn't understand Karen Carpenter as a name choice at all).

I was impressed at how well a male writer got inside a female character's head. I enjoyed the taster of Jonathan Harvey's 1st novel and will read it in due course.

justmuddlingalong Fri 13-Dec-13 04:57:40

Just finished this book tonight. It was ok. Not something I would buy as I felt it was a bit chick litty. Some scenarios were a totally unbelievable and drawn out, not adding much to the story. My 43 year old eyes struggled with the tiny print! Will pass the book on. Thank you anyway.

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