Whisper it, but sometimes the joy of reading is being able to rubber neck as characters make disastrous lifestyle choices and sit in judgement of the fallout. Never Greener by Ruth Jones was a book that allowed me to indulge these tendencies to the full. My friend passed the book on to me, and by page 11 I was already texting her to express my absolute contempt for the behaviour of the main characters. She got regular updates condemning them until I finished the book.
Written by that Ruth Jones (of Gavin and Stacey fame, aka the woman people did impressions of at me for like my first three years living in England), Never Greener tells the story of Kate Andrews, an actress who had a passionate affair with a married man, Callum, before finding success as an actress and trying to move on from the fallout. Seventeen years later, Kate and Callum meet again, and of course, faced with the choice of restart the affair or leave it well alone they make the bad choice with consequences for everyone around them.
You always see bookish people sneering at the concept of unlikable characters putting people off a book, but I know what people mean. If you don’t care about the characters, how can you be invested in the story? In Never Greener, Ruth Jones has been very clever with this because even though I was quick to text my friend that the main characters were an absolute bunch of b***ards, as a reader you become very invested in how things will play out because of the more likeable innocent bystander characters.
It’s easy to wonder whether Ruth Jones based the character of Kate Andrews, actress and raving narcissist on a real actress, but I wondered the same about the character of Callum MacGregor, as the rugby lad past his glory days who can’t keep it in his trousers is such a familiar town trope, if you will, in Wales that transposing the characters to Scotland doesn’t stop you feeling like it might be someone that you know. Ruth Jones’ storytelling chops are clearly on display as the unfair unfolds, and indeed unravels, it’s hard to put the book down.
Never Greener lives up to the title as something of a modern day fable, and is a great read for one of those nights when you feel the need to put the world to rights. The downside for me is that the male character, typically with these things, seems to come across better than the female even though in the early stages of their relationship at least the balance of power and responsibilities lay with him, but no book is perfect and I did like how this played out.